In early September, Robin Adelson joined the Children’s Book Council as executive director, succeeding Paula Quint, who stepped down in June after 40 years with the organization. We caught up with Adelson after two weeks on the job.
What direction do you want to take the CBC?
Onward and upward. My mandate, upon accepting the position of executive director, was broadly stated as revitalizing the CBC. While it has a rich history and a solid foundation, I believe that the CBC is ready for and in need of change.
I’d like to take the CBC to a place where we are focused, responsive and prolific. In practical terms, this means that we are reviewing each and every program and project with a view toward assessing whether it ought to be maintained as is, maintained but amended, or terminated.
What challenges are currently facing the organization?
Our greatest challenges are financial. The last few years have witnessed a noticeable and steady decline in revenue generated by the sale of materials. At the same time, a portion of our membership seems fidgety. The bigger publishing houses are paying high membership dues while, at the same time, questioning the benefits and value of membership. The smaller and mid-sized houses are concerned that the interests of the bigger houses will shut them out. We need to change perceptions, which is a challenge in and of itself.
An additional and related challenge is the fact that we are thinly staffed. We have high hopes, big dreams and a very dedicated and intelligent staff, but there are not very many of us. Perhaps a healthier bottom line will enable us to change our staffing shortage but, until we reach that point, we need to remain focused and efficient so that we can maximize the productivity of our staff without burning anyone out.
How do you intend to address those challenges?
We have to find a way to become relevant to our membership, but this may be something entirely different to a small publisher, a mid-size publisher and a large publisher.
One of the first things we need to do is develop other streams of finance. Alternative financing will have to come from outside the industry, because our members are not exactly lining up to pay more than they are already paying. We need to activate the CBC’s 501(c)(3) entity, Every Child a Reader, and then secure corporate sponsorships. I would not for a minute suggest that this will be an easy feat but I see no reason to think we will not be successful.
In terms of becoming relevant to our membership, we will need to listen to them and maintain a focused approach. We will also need to take a focused approach when we consider new initiatives. This may require expanding the committee structure to involve more members in the decision-making at the ground level.
What is your ultimate vision for the CBC?
I envision a Children’s Book Council that will be recognized by the media and in households, libraries and schools as the resource that it, in fact, already is; that will engage its members and advocate on their behalf in connection with issues that matter to them; and that has an active charitable foundation that will make a difference in the lives of many children. We have already started to explore the possibility of corporate sponsorship for a variety of programming initiatives, and I believe partnerships with other entities to be critical to our growth. The potential reach of the CBC is limitless.
At the end of the day, the CBC is a trade association, and our members are the greatest resource we have—we would like to be an equally vital resource to them.