The Book Industry Study Group (BISG) will mark its 40th anniversary at its annual meeting, set for September 30, and as it heads into its fifth decade, the organization has a new leader and what it believes is a clearer idea of its mission.
BISG was founded to bring together all the different businesses that work throughout the publishing supply chain, and its membership includes not only companies in publishing and bookselling but authors, agents, online retailers, wholesalers, distributors, printers, manufacturers, libraries, and technology companies. That framework worked well in helping the organization navigate some of the complicated digital transition issues, but BISG has struggled recently to define what its future mission should be. That uncertainty was one reason for the departure of Mark Kuyper as executive director in August after only one year, and the appointment, announced last week, of well-known industry consultant Brian O’Leary to take over the role starting October 3.
Prior to Kuyper’s resignation, the BISG board had put together a 16-person committee to develop a strategic plan for the future, a process that was sped up following Kuyper’s exit. O’Leary, who is founder of Magellan Media Partners (and a PW columnist), said that creating a document that aligned objectives with the resources to accomplish them was key to him taking the post.
Ingram Content Group’s Kelly Gallagher, who is a member of the committee, said that in addition to codifying BISG’s mission statement, core values, and objectives in a way that the various parts of the membership “could buy into,” the strategic plan provides ways to measure how the objectives are being met. For example, if one goal is to help members network more, the creation of a new newsletter could be one way to get people to interact more, Gallagher said.
As outlined in the draft document, which will be presented to the full board this week, the four main BISG objectives involve information, membership, standards, and research. Though these are not new areas for BISG, providing measurable goals is an important shift. The plan eliminates the tension between the aspirational goals of members and what is practical, Gallagher said. By outlining what BISG “should and should not do,” the strategic plan “sets out how the membership can get the biggest bang for the buck,” he added.
The broad membership of BISG (it has 35 board members) has always been a unique feature, and O’Leary said he is committed to maintaining a membership base that reflects all aspects of the supply chain. That may entail looking at businesses that have little, if any, current representation at BISG, he added, pointing to the growth in mobile reading as an area where BISG could find some new members.
O’Leary said he is encouraged that the board has come together to support a plan that aligns strategy with available resources, adding that he knows it will be up to him to get things done. “The board has a clear direction that it wants to follow, and it will be my responsibility to execute on that vision,” he said. “I have my marching orders.”
Before he can tackle the big issues, O’Leary will take some time to figure out what resources he needs. The BISG staff, which has been as large as four, currently consists of just one office manager. O’Leary said that in addition to making a few staff hires, he will look at other ways to bring in the skills BISG needs, such has working with other industry groups on different projects.
With O’Leary in place and progress made in developing a strategic plan, Gallagher said he thinks the organization has made important strides in ensuring its long-term future.