The American Booksellers Association is asking its membership to vote on a change to its bylaws that would add two additional members to the organization's board, bringing the total to 13, and approve new bylaws that would ensure four of those board members would be BIPOC booksellers. In the near term, should the bylaws be approved, two Black booksellers will be appointed to board after due process.
The news was delivered yesterday in a letter from ABA board president Jamie Fiocco, owner of Flyleaf Books in Chapel Hill, N.C.
Specifically, should members vote "Yes," the following changes to the bylaws will take place:
- The board will call for board nominations from members. (Booksellers may also self-nominate.)
- A new nominating committee that includes two people of color, including at least one Black bookseller, will review the nominations, interview the nominees, and make recommendations to the board.
- Based on those recommendations, the board will appoint two Black booksellers to serve until the next election cycle begins, in early spring 2021. At that time, these appointees can run as incumbents in the new election for a regular three-year term.
- Note: The board has chosen to appoint two Black booksellers immediately. Otherwise, legally we would have to wait until the next election cycle, in the spring. We feel this is too important to wait. These appointments will still come from nominations from the membership.
- This new board will meet for the first time in October 2020.
The letter goes on to note that up to now, the ABA has had just one Black board director in the organization's history. "We wish to acknowledge our failures and focus on actual system changes to ensure the erasure of Black voices no longer continues," wrote Fiocco.
The letter continued, "Our commitment to change includes reinventing how the board operates: improved communication with membership and staff, a wider sharing of institutional knowledge, and a decentralization of responsibility," wrote Fiocco. "We are discussing a yearly diversity, equity, and inclusion audit of the board along with regular antiracist training and making diversity part of our DNA rather than a hackneyed word sprinkled throughout our governance documents. Our aim is to build value for all members, and part of that must involve a focus on BIPOC booksellers. To do this, we need to listen to BIPOC voices, increase the speed in which these voices can inform, and increase the number of talented people engaged in ABA initiatives. We remain committed to all diversity and are also acknowledging that our efforts to include BIPOC voices have moved too slowly."
Fiocco then went on to urge members to vote yes.