At the annual general meeting of the Booksellers Association of the U.K. and Ireland, held last Tuesday during the London Book Fair, Tim Godfray, executive chair of the BA Group, reported that the number of independent bookshops in the BA's membership has risen and the BA now has more bookstore outlets as members than at any other time in its history.
He also gave updates on three recent initiatives undertaken by the BA: Green Bookselling, Diversity & Inclusion and Professional Development. The Green Bookselling Task Force has been working with publishers to make the supply chain more ecologically friendly and is gathering sustainable best practices that booksellers can use at their own stores. To help foster diversity and inclusivity, the BA has established a grant fund to help members take on a variety of projects (more on that below). And in the realm of professional development, the BA is working to create a mentoring program, a booksellers network for newer members, and more ways in which booksellers can share best practices.
Godfray added that the BA's efforts to bring Batch to the U.S. have met with very positive reactions, and in the U.K., the BA will soon roll out a Batch app for smartphones.
On Wednesday afternoon, a group of British booksellers shared what they had accomplished with their grants from the BA's Diversity and Inclusivity initiative. Meryl Halls, managing director of the BA, explained that all three booksellers--Rachel Rogan, owner of Rogan's Books in Bedford, England, Fleur Sinclair, owner of Sevenoaks Bookshop in Sevenoaks, England, and Noor Hemani of Lighthouse Bookshop in Edinburgh, Scotland--were part of the first round of grants.
Rachel Rogan used her grant to create a regular book club in partnership with a local LGBTQ youth group. Rogan had previously run a youth Pride weekend with the group and now works with publishers to bring in new titles for the book group. As part of the book group, Rogan gets the participating teens to provide reviews and feedback of new titles.
At Sevenoaks Bookshop, Fleur Sinclair has run the equivalent of a YA advisory council since 2017, and with the help of the grant created a magazine to go along with it. It is created for and by children, and each participant is given a variety of journalistic roles. The money from the grant allowed Sinclair to bring in an editor-in-chief to guide the process and several others to help coordinate production. For each issue of the magazine, which is called Bookmark, Sinclair will bring in a new group of 14 or 15 children to put it together.
Located in Edinburgh, Scotland, Lighthouse Bookshop is a radical, intersectional feminist bookshop, and bookseller Noor Hemani explained that they used their grant to make the shop more accessible to people with disabilities. That included buying a portable wheelchair ramp, a PA system so that customers can hear events from all around the store, and a microphone to use for live-streaming events. Hemani added that the shop will also use the grant money to buy a hearing loop to aid hearing-impaired customers, but they are still researching the different types of systems. --Alex Mutter