Spotlight on ABA Board Candidate Cathy Langer

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By now, all ABA member bookstores should have received a mailing, via the U.S. Postal Service, that included a ballot to elect directors for three-year terms on the ABA Board. The ballot must be postmarked by Tuesday, May 1, and returned in the postage-paid envelope that was included in the mailing. (The envelope is addressed to Marks Paneth & Shron LLP.) The ballot features the names of three director candidates: Steve Bercu of BookPeople in Austin, Texas; Tom Campbell of The Regulator Bookshop in Durham, North Carolina; and Cathy Langer of Tattered Cover Book Store in Denver. (Langer is currently a member of the ABA Board and is eligible for an additional three-year term.) Space is provided on the ballot for write-in candidates.

The Board ballot also includes the names of Russ Lawrence of Chapter One Book Store in Hamilton, Montana, for president, and Gayle Shanks of Changing Hands Bookstore in Tempe, Arizona, for vice-president/secretary.

Over the past two weeks, BTW talked to the Board candidates about their bookselling careers and about their priorities if elected to serve the interests of the community of independent booksellers. This week's profile is of Cathy Langer of Tattered Cover in Denver. Previous profiles were of Tom Campbell of the Regulator Bookshop in Durham, North Carolina, and Steve Bercu of Austin's BookPeople.

Cathy Langer has spent her entire 30-year bookselling career (minus a few she took off to raise her children) at Tattered Cover, which now has three locations, at the Highlands Ranch Town Center, in Lower Downtown Denver (LoDo), and the newest location, in the historic Lowenstein Theater. In 1977, when Langer applied at the then "teeny-tiny" six-year-old bookstore, she thought it would be a short-term job before she went on to law school. But when Langer interviewed for the position, owner Joyce Meskis asked her to make a one-year commitment. "The thought of making a yearlong commitment horrified me," said Langer, "but 30 years later, guess what? It was absolutely the right thing to do."

While growing up, Langer's family divided its time between Colorado and Washington, D.C. Most of her extended family attended her alma matter, Colorado College. The college, known for its encouragement of creative curricula, allowed her to do the kind of wide-ranging, cross-disciplinary study that was good preparation for becoming a bookseller, she said.

Over the last two decades, Langer has been very involved with the Colorado Center for the Book, and she was one of the founders of the Rocky Mountain Book Festival. Langer served on the board of the Mountains and Plains Independent Booksellers Association (MPIBA) and served as its president for a term.

At the October 2003 MPBA Trade Show, Langer was named the Gordon Saull Bookseller of the Year and awarded a $300 prize to be presented to any organization the winner chooses. Langer, who told BTW that she considers the fight against the USA Patriot Act and censorship to be key ABA issues, opted to give the prize money to the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression (ABFFE). "The public policy aspect of the ABA is very important to me," she said. "ABFFE is near and dear to us at Tattered Cover."

During her years at Tattered Cover, Langer said, her focus has been on multiple areas of the bookstores; that is, "whatever needed to be done." This has resulted in her serving as the project manager for various projects, including opening the Fourth Story restaurant at the now closed Cherry Creek location, as well as the build-out of the LoDo store. Langer also managed the marketing department ("marketing has always been a major interest and focus of mine"), and is currently the lead buyer.

In the upcoming years, Langer said she'd like to "keep abreast of what the book might look like and be sold as in the future. I really think that regular old books as we now know them will be in our future, but we've got to stay open-minded. We want to be booksellers five, ten, fifty years from now. We need to think about staying relevant in the marketplace."

Working towards building and maintaining that market relevance is what Langer plans to concentrate on during her next term as a board member. She said, "I think making sure independent booksellers really stay in the loop -- as far as whatever bookselling might look like in the future and whatever format that might take -- is very important. And education in general continues to be a high priority. Mostly, I'd like to make sure that independent booksellers have the tools and education to be nimble in a shifting marketplace." --Karen Schechner