More than a quarter century after forming the first children’s booksellers organization in the country, the Northern California Children’s Booksellers Association will merge with its counterpart, the Northern California Independent Booksellers Association, headquartered in San Francisco. The transition is connected to a larger trend that has seen the closing of many children’s-only bookstores coupled with the rise of children’s books in general stores. In many respects the NCCBA/NCIBA merger parallels one six years ago when the Southern California Children’s Booksellers Association integrated into the Southern California Independent Booksellers Association. Or more recently in 2010, when the Association of Booksellers for Children, which formed six months after NCCBA, merged with the American Booksellers Association.

“It’s a relief,” says longtime NCCBA board member Luan Stauss, owner of Oakland’s Laurel Bookstore. “It’s nice to be part of a larger bookselling community, although many of our members already belong to NCIBA.” In the past few years, NCCBA had fallen behind in holding monthly meetings, in part because the economic crash of 2008 forced booksellers to devote more time to running their stores. “We’ve lost so many of our active members,” says Stauss, “either because they passed away or closed their stores. Now we’re very loosely connected, and it’s sad.” NCCBA’s membership had decreased to nearly 60, including authors, illustrators, bookstores, librarians, and literary agents, at the time the decision was made to merge.

As a result of the merger, the NCIBA board will add a position for the NCCBA chair, who is still to be chosen. All other roles of the current NCCBA board will be folded into the administrative functions of NCIBA. “NCCBA will continue to facilitate its popular Otter Gala Awards dinner, the Kids Otter Read Day, and other activities related to kids books,” says NCIBA executive director Hut Landon. “And there is money in the bank generated by NCCBA that will be set aside specifically for its use in creating more special events.” In addition, the NCCBA listserv will remain active. Former members who join NCIBA will be able to utilize its listserv as well. NCCBA will remain a vital group within NCIBA much like the New England Children’s Booksellers Advisory Council, which turned for help to the New England Booksellers Association for help with backend operations over a decade ago.

Valerie Lewis, co-owner of Hicklebee’s in San Jose, who helped found NCCBA in 1984, told PW, “We’ll work in harmony with NCIBA as long as we can remain independent. We’ve been through the best and worst of times together, and now it’s just time for a change.” Originally, she says, the group wanted to be independent, because “we didn’t want to have to get permission from a board, or use Robert’s Rules of Order. We were red-hot booksellers who wanted to eliminate anything in our path that would slow us down.”

Stauss is encouraging former members to take or renew membership in NCIBA, which will allow them entry to the fall trade show in mid-October. At the show NCIBA is offering free displays of local NCCBA author members. As an additional perk for non-bookstore members that join NCIBA, the association will provide one opportunity annually for what Landon calls “shameless self-promotion” in the organization’s monthly newsletter. “It’s really important,” he says, “to keep NCCBA alive for booksellers, authors, and publishers. It’s one of the bestselling categories around. Anything that keeps the collective wisdom of booksellers in play is a good thing.”