A Report on the January 2021 ABA Board Meeting

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The American Booksellers Association’s Board of Directors met January 21–23, via Zoom.

Over the course of the meeting, the board:

  • Received a report from ABA President Jamie Fiocco on her activities on behalf of the association since the last full board meeting, in October 2020, as well as an overview of the full board’s activities and accomplishments over the past 20 months. The report included a number of key issues, including Fiocco’s co-chairing the CEO Search Committee that resulted in the hiring of CEO Allison Hill (the first woman to lead the association), bylaws changes that expanded the ABA Board and institutionalized board diversity, working with her colleagues on the board on finalizing the association’s updated Ends Policies, improving a number of board processes and systems, exploring new ways to share information and communicate with members, and better meeting the needs of a diverse range of members.
  • Heard a report from Hill on ABA’s activities since the last full board meeting, including:

    • ABC Group programming, including its November antiracist reading series with Patrisse Cullors.
    • Advocacy efforts by ABFE to return the titles Slaughterhouse-Five and Ghost Boys to school curriculums in Vail, Arizona, and Kingsburg, California, respectively.
    • The ABA Advocacy team’s work in advocating on behalf of additional federal COVID relief, including meetings with the offices of Senator Tillis, Speaker Pelosi, Senator Collins, Senator Romney, and Senator Schumer. She noted that bookstore members accompanied the Advocacy team to some of these meetings. Hill also updated the board on the implementation of new advocacy software that allows ABA to more efficiently stay on top of key legislative and regulatory updates and gives members tools to quickly and easily contact lawmakers.
    • New members appointed to the ABA Booksellers Advisory Council:

    • That ABA is continuing to waive fees for new BIPOC members and conduct outreach to Black-owned bookstores and BIPOC-owned bookstores in general, and that 34 BIPOC-owned stores have joined ABA since March 2020. In addition, ABA has revised its membership application to collect demographic data in order to better represent and support members. She noted that monthly BIPOC meetups continue and that ABA had conducted the second quarterly BIPOC forum to hear directly about BIPOC members’ needs and concerns and to offer support.
    • Upcoming educational programming includes: a three-part financial series; a continuation of the ABC antiracist reading series mentioned above; regular monthly Marketing and Technology Meetups; a Thursday educational series with topics such as operational workflow and returns, Twitter engagement, recognizing microaggressions, optimizing coop, and business models (cooperatives and nonprofits); and that registration for the upcoming Winter Institute, in February, had opened to strong initial registrations.
  • Received and accepted the resignation from the board by Chris Morrow of Northshire Bookstores in Manchester Center, Vermont, and Saratoga Springs, New York, for personal reasons. Fiocco expressed on behalf of the board its gratitude for Morrow’s years of service on behalf of ABA and its members. In keeping with the association bylaws, upon consideration the board approved the appointment of Michelle Malonzo of Changing Hands Bookstore in Tempe and Phoenix, Arizona, to fill the remainder of Morrow’s term, which ends in 2022.
  • Received the report of the Nominating Committee, chaired by Jenny Cohen of Waucoma Bookstore in Hood River, Oregon. The board approved the committee’s recommendation of the following five candidates to stand for election as directors on the ABA Board and serve three-year terms (2021–2024):

This will be the second three-year term on the board for Estep and Spring. Caine has not previously served on the ABA Board. Cumsky-Whitlock and Knight were appointed to the board in September 2020 and are now eligible to be elected to their first terms.

  • Heard a report from Hill on IndieCommerce on a number of items, including updates on steps the IndieCommerce team had taken to implement systems improvements during the significant growth in online sales for member stores continuing through the holiday period and plans for 2021 and 2022.
  • Met with Williams Jones Investment Management representative Tom MacCowatt, partner and senior equity portfolio manager, and John Cummings, partner and senior fixed income portfolio manager, who presented a report on the association’s investment holdings.
  • Received a financial report from ABA COO PK Sindwani on the results of ABA’s operations and investment portfolio.
  • Heard a report from Ryan Hagan and Erik Ladewig of Altruic Advisors, the association’s new auditors, on ABA’s 2020–2019 draft Audited Statement. The auditors provided a “clean” opinion of the association’s finances. As such, the report was issued with no reservations regarding the state of ABA’s financial statements, and it states the auditor’s belief that ABA’s financial statements fairly present its financial results, financial position, and cash flows. The auditors praised the ABA team’s management of ABA’s finances and, among other points, cited the association’s strong balance sheet and very healthy operating reserve ratio. In addition, they noted that ABA benchmarked very well against other associations in regard to its general and administrative expense ratio. The report was unanimously accepted by the board, and the final version of the Audited Statement will be available to members on BookWeb.org in early February.
  • Reviewed an update to ABA’s Ends Policies and after discussion approved the new policies (see today’s story in BTW).

The new Ends Policies:

ABA Ends Policies,

Approved January 23, 2021

The American Booksellers Association exists so that its core membership of independent bookstores can operate successfully as sustainable businesses and constitute a vital channel in the U.S. book market. This will be achieved at a level that justifies the resources invested while ensuring the association’s long-term financial sustainability. This also will be done in a manner that demonstrates a commitment to antiracism, inclusion, representation, and diversity.

The ABA has four broad tasks—education, promotion, partnership, and advocacy. Accordingly, the association will work to ensure that:

  1. Core members have the necessary skills, education, technology, community (including other independent businesses), and resources to be successful and financially sustainable.
  2. The general public have an awareness and understanding of the cultural and economic value of independent bookstores.
  3. The book industry views independent bookstores as vital and valued partners.
  4. Legal and regulatory policies reflect the interests of independent bookstores in such areas as antitrust action, small business assistance, and the First Amendment right to disseminate information as it relates to the bookselling industry.