As a longtime member of the ABA staff, I did not have a lot of opportunities to interact with folks from Borders, given our competitive and adversarial history, so I was particularly intrigued when I got a call in 2011 from a Pam French, who identified herself as being from Borders HQ in Ann Arbor, Mich. Of course, by then, Borders was in a going-out-of-business mode, so I had no idea why she was reaching out to the CEO of the ABA. But it turned out to be an important call, as it laid the groundwork for something that literally resulted in life-changing differences for legions of booksellers from all across the country.
Pam told me about her work providing assistance to Borders’s employees in need, and her determination to continue those efforts on behalf of a broader constituency of all booksellers in the aftermath of Borders’s bankruptcy. ABA had just been through its own efforts to help booksellers in the weeks and months after a series of natural disasters, and it was pretty clear that, as a trade association, we were hardly experts in helping victims of hurricanes, floods, fires, etc.
So when Pam suggested she wanted to apply her expertise and experience to all booksellers, I immediately suggested that we talk. And, as they say, the rest is history.
It became apparent very quickly that Pam and her team were skilled at helping folks in need, and in a relatively short time they made the transition from an entity established to assist the employees of a single company to an industry-wide foundation willing and able to help all booksellers no matter where they worked. Whatever skepticism may have existed at the outset quickly disappeared, as Binc was on the ground doing really vital work providing badly needed help.
In the intervening dozen or so years, Binc has helped literally thousands of booksellers. Victims of natural disasters, people with medical emergencies or other personal hardships, those in need of scholarships, etc.—Binc has been there. The Binc staff and board have become an integral part of the bookselling community, and today, it’s hard to imagine our community without Binc. And their more recent work to help stores in need is another example of how indispensable Binc has become.
Pam and her team deserve every accolade they get, and I consider whatever modest help I was able to provide back in 2011 as one of the most important things I did at ABA. The evolution of Binc from an entity serving the needs of a single business to supporting an entire industry is—as far as I can tell—unique in the annals of American business history. Booksellers are indeed fortunate that Binc chose to continue its work and not simply go away, as it easily could have done.
Here’s to Binc’s next 25 years, and warmest congratulations on a job well done!