A quarter century after children’s booksellers broke away from the American Booksellers Association and formed a separate group, the Association of Booksellers for Children, the two have begun discussions to consider reuniting. Among the possibilities that such a collaboration might take: for the ABC to become a division or department of ABA.
In a mailing that went out late last week to ABC booksellers, association president Becky Anderson of Anderson’s Bookshops in Naperville, Ill., noted that the organization is not initiating this because of any problems at ABC right now.
“However, as you know,” a second letter enclosed with Anderson’s and signed by the entire ABC board stated, “the publishing industry is facing a period of unprecedented change. Even the best and brightest among us are blind to what the future may hold in terms of shifting consumer patterns, technological innovation, and publisher priorities.... We want to be proactive at looking toward the future.”
Given that ABC already devotes 80% of its revenue to programming and relies heavily on funding from publishers, the board stated that it wants to look toward the future before decisions are forced on it by the economy. Not that it plans to rush into an arrangement with ABA. Even if the proposal to merge the two groups were to go forward, it would take at least a year, according to ABC executive director Kristen McLean. ABC is planning a membership survey and a Town Hall meeting at BEA to discuss the proposal further.
The board’s letter, which noted that 95% of ABC members are also members of ABA, quoted the response from ABA board president Gayle Shanks of Changing Hands in Tempe, Ariz., to the ABC’s request to consider a possible merger. “We share the same passion for independent bookstores, and in an economy that requires us to look at every option for the healthy survival of our stores, exploration of this idea seems prudent and timely,” Shanks wrote.
ABA COO Oren Teicher told Bookshelf, “ABA has the highest regard for the work being done by ABC, and we have been doing more things collaboratively in recent years. We are looking forward to participating in additional preliminary discussions about how we may best further that cooperation. But most importantly, at this stage, it’s really up to ABC to continue to garner input from its members to determine whether this makes sense.”
At least one of the original members of ABC sees the need for making changes in order to survive. “ I very much trust the individuals who are on the ABC board and believe that they are putting a lot of thought into what will be best for ABC,” says Judy Nelson, president of Mrs. Nelson’s Toy and Book Shop in La Verne, Calif.
For now ABC will continue to operate as before, while a task force comprised of members of the board and staff of both organizations is formed.
Last year it added 30 new members, and McLean is working on a new backlist catalog. She views the discussions positively. “When the ABC was formed there was no Internet and there were many more children’s stores. We find ourselves in a changing world and we have to evolve. I think it’s a reflection of consolidation in many areas of the industry, and I think the board is really being proactive,” says McLean. “This is fantastic in terms of ABC’s possible future outlook.”
The complete ABC board mailing, including a Q & A, is available here.