Spotlight on ABA Board President Mitchell Kaplan

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ABA bookstore members are currently casting ballots to elect 2005 - 2006 ABA Board directors and to ratify the ABA Nominating Committee's choice of Mitchell Kaplan of Books & Books of Coral Gables, Florida, for a second term as ABA President and Russ Lawrence of Chapter One Book Store in Hamilton, Montana, for a first term as Vice President. The three director candidates are Lawrence; Michael Tucker of Books Inc. in San Francisco; and Collette Morgan of Wild Rumpus Books for Young Readers in Minneapolis. Board ballots must be returned to accountant KPMG by May 4.

BTW recently had a chance to talk to Mitchell Kaplan about his bookstore and his focus as ABA President.

Mitchell Kaplan

Mitch Kaplan owns Books & Books, which has four locations in South Florida -- Coral Gables, Miami Beach, Delray Beach, and Bal Harbour. He opened the Coral Gables store in 1982 and the Miami Beach location in 1989. In November 2004, Books & Books opened a 1,000-square-foot store inside the Delray Beach headquarters and showroom of Levenger, Inc. A fourth store is scheduled to open next week at Bal Harbour Shops, an upscale shopping center north of Miami Beach.

About his initial entree into bookselling, Kaplan said, "Early on I discovered the potency of bookstores. There was a Doubleday Bookstore in Miami Beach that I went to all the time as a kid, and, when I got to college, I found out about stores like City Lights, Shakespeare & Company, The Gotham Bookmart -- stores that were central to their communities. After bouncing around a bit -- law school, teaching -- I decided to devote my energies to opening the first store."

During his 25 years of running what has long become a South Florida institution, Kaplan said that although he has always appreciated the kind of community support the bookstores have garnered, he's come to fully "understand the power of community in allowing independent bookstores to operate successfully today." He added, "You really have to have your roots deep in the community. That's what distinguishes us from other retail entities that sell books. We must make note of that and celebrate it whenever we can."

Kaplan is a founder of The Miami Book Fair International, now in its 22nd year, and is chair of its Board of Directors. He also serves on the steering committee of the Florida Center for Literary Arts, which coordinates literary events year round. Kaplan was recently named one of the 50 most powerful people in Miami by Poder magazine.

Literacy issues are one of Kaplan's major concerns, and he is also very involved with the ACLU and works closely with the organization on diverse matters, but most specifically on First Amendment issues. Recently, he worked with the ACLU to host in-store forums on various issues of concern in Miami.

During his past term as ABA's president, Kaplan said that he was "most concerned with helping to give our membership the tools necessary to compete in this ever changing retail landscape, and I've been proud to see the Board make a strong commitment to educational issues."

For his second term, Kaplan said he planned to continue addressing past key issues, including the fight to protect First Amendment rights and creating a viable toolkit for booksellers. He added, "I want to continue to advocate to our customers, to our vendors, and to the community at large that independent booksellers remain a vital, integral part of literary culture and that our continued strength and vibrancy is a necessity." --Karen Schechner