The Association of Booksellers for Children, which announced in late March that it was considering a merger with the ABA, brought the debate to its members on Friday, at its annual membership meeting. A task force will convene in July to nail down more details, and will incorporate the feedback from Friday’s meeting.

Leslie Reiner of Inkwood Books in Tampa, Fla., said she hoped the task force could determine what the ABA can do for the ABC; “we know what we can do for them, and I want to make sure the programs we’ve worked so hard for will be protected.” Carol Chittenden of Eight Cousins in Falmouth, Mass., expressed concern that since children’s books have traditionally been viewed as “different and lesser,” that same attitude might still be present, after a merger. And Ellen Davis of Dragonwings in Waupaca, Wis., who said she was “very interested in the possibility” of the merger, said she wanted to hear more about the process, the nuts and bolts of how this merger might take shape.

ABC executive director Kristen McLean pointed out that the ABC membership will ultimately vote whether to proceed with the merger, with 2/3 of the members having to OK it. She spoke about how a nonprofit organization has a typical progression in its lifespan, and how transitional periods are crucial. A merger with ABA, she said, “would give us a net and allow us to grow our programming, and improve our children’s offerings at IndieBound, [Currently] we’re always working at the limit of what we can do.”

Outgoing ABC board president Becky Anderson spoke of her wish to take ABC’s programming beyond its current sphere: to IRA, to NCTE, to state conferences, “to tell about the importance of independent booksellers.”

Collette Morgan of Wild Rumpus in Minneapolis, told the membership that she has never joined ABC, because she had considered ABC “irrelevant to my business.” But she had served on the ABA’s board, and “when I heard the announcement [about the possible merger] I was thrilled to sign up [with ABC]. The infrastructure of ABA can give you so much support.”

Keeping a separate identity for the ABC was a key point echoed by several booksellers. “I still want ABC to remain autonomous,” said Dennis Ronberg of Linden Tree Books in Los Altos, Calif. “I think we can do that if we set up the structure properly.” Dara LaPorte of Politics & Prose in Washington, D.C., gave the example of the American Library Association as a possible model for ABC, wherein an organization like YALSA, within the ALA, has a separate board and a separate voting structure.

McLean also said she didn’t want the ABC to be forced into a decision, but wanted the options explored carefully. “I want us to be safe,” she said. “I will work toward the goal of keeping us going forever.”

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