As the fallout from the abrupt departure of Karin Taylor as executive director of the New York Center for Independent Publishing continues to spread, it is clear there is lots of work to be done if the center is to survive into 2010. While Clive Beasley, executive director of the General Society of Mechanics and Tradesmen, said again last week that the GSMT is committed to the NYCIP, its future depends on whether the society can improve its own financial condition and that of the center's as well as hammer out a better working relationship with the NYCIP's executive and advisory boards.
Beasley said GSMT will only begin a search for a new full-time executive director if the financial situation improves over the next six months. He said he has placed various society departments, including fund-raising and sponsorship functions, at the disposal of the interim director, Leah Schnelbach, with the aim of conducting all scheduled events as well as to try to raise more money.
The next major event is the Round Table Writers Conference set for April 24—25 at the NYCIP office in New York. Tim Brown, who is organizing the conference, said he has signed up several more speakers in addition to keynoter Wally Lamb. Brown said while it's still early to gauge what attendance will be, it appears that the numbers are a little ahead of 2008. Beasley is hoping that the conference, which he said usually raises about $50,000, can at least match that figure this year. And although he acknowledged that it is a “lousy time” to try to find more sponsors for the center, he said that must be a priority.
Besides the financial issues, the center's future rests on improving the relationship between the society, which pays staff salaries and provides office and meeting space at its building on West 44th Street, and the volunteer boards. Beasley said he believes the two parties involved with the NYCIP weren't always on the same page. “I don't think the society fully understood just how much the [executive and advisory] committees were involved with the CIP and its programming, just as I think the committees didn't fully understand the financial commitment that the society has made” to the center, Beasley said. Taylor's departure prompted several board members on both committees to resign. Beasley maintained, however, that his goal is to create a more unified group that can work on programming and financial issues together.
Publishing attorney Lloyd Jassin, a longtime supporter of NYCIP, said he is “currently sitting on the sidelines,” explaining that he is very disappointed “that the human resources and public relations disaster” surrounding Taylor's firing wasn't avoided. “Returning CIP to health will require somebody in charge who can handle the human resources and structural challenges,” Jassin said.
The society has sponsored the NYCIP since it was formed 25 years ago by Whitney North Seymour as a resource to help independent publishers survive and grow in an industry that even back then was becoming dominated by large corporations. Beasley said the society remains committed to the ideal of “keeping independent voices alive.”