Len Vlahos will join the Book Industry Study Group as executive director, taking the position vacated earlier this year by Scott Lubeck. Vlahos has been coo of the American Booksellers Association since 2009, and has spent nearly 20 years with the organization. His last day with ABA is September 2, and he joins BSG on September 12.
“All of us at ABA extend warmest congratulations to Len on his appointment as BISG’s new executive director,” said ABA CEO Oren Teicher in a statement. “To say the least, we will miss him a great deal, but we are delighted that the wider book industry can now benefit from his enormous talent and vast experience. Len is perfectly suited for this new role, and we eagerly look forward to working with BISG and Len to address the many challenges facing the book industry.”
In a telephone interview Thursday afternoon, Vlahos said taking the BISG job “was not a decision entered lightly” but he was thankful the organization’s executive committee “was putting their faith in me.” He became familiar with BISG’s mission and place within the industry from serving on its board of directors for the past two years and when the executive director position was open, it seemed “interesting and appealing.” to him. “There’s a perception that [BISG] narrowly cast in terms of standards. But there’s a lot more to the organization; we exist almost like a Switzerland in book industry, where all industry players work for the betterment of entire industry, to help them sell more books to consumers and sell more authors to readers.”
As to whether it would be an adjustment for him to move from concentrating on independent bookselling to a broader spectrum of publishing, Vlahos didn’t think it would be a major gear shift for him. “I’ll always have a fondness for independent bookselling,” he said. “It would be silly not to say that’s my pedigree. But [as COO of ABA] I was exposed to all facets of the industry. We had strong relationships with libraries and with publishers large and small. But [moving to BISG] was a way for me to broaden my perspective and my horizons, rather than focusing energy on one channel. I relish the opportunity to focus on the whole industry.”
Vlahos did not get into specifics as to his plans for BISG and what areas they need to focus on or improve upon, but did point to the importance of Bookstats (in collaboration with the AAP) and building upon its standards work around metadata and rights vocabulary as general examples. “BISG’s mission is to have a more informed and empowered book industry for print and digital, and there’s a great opportunity to move in a lot of different directions. The key is to leverage BISG unique position at center of the bok industry to help foster conversation and dialogue and move industry forward.”
BISG Treasurer George Tattersfield, who led the search committee for a new exective director, added: “Len will provide the leadership and vision we need in this period of significant change as BISG continues to supply research, education, and standards that help keep the book ecosystem healthy.”
For anyone wondering how the other booksellers who are members of BISG would feel about Vlahos’s ability to expand his perspective, BISG board and search committee member Joe Gonnella of Barnes & Noble says in the announcement, “I welcome a fellow bookseller to his critical new role in a collaborative, consensus-driven organization. Len will help guide BISG in developing research, best practice recommendations, industry reporting and conference agendas as well as exploring new areas relevant to the publishing community.”