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A Report from IBPA’s DEI Task Force

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by Karen Pavlicin, Publisher, Elva Resa Publishing —

Karen Pavlicin

More about the association-wide integration and launch of IBPA’s DEI Committee.

Over the past year, the IBPA Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Task Force—under the direction of the IBPA Board of Directors and informed by DEI professionals and IBPA members—established and implemented the first phase of IBPA’s DEI Strategic Plan.

During this time, the IBPA DEI Task Force’s work focused primarily on ensuring DEI best practices within IBPA as an association supporting its 3,700+ independent publishing members, with an eye toward influencing the book publishing industry at large going forward.

IBPA is committed to fostering diversity, equity, and inclusion within its membership, leadership, policies, practices, and publications.

To accomplish important changes and develop supporting resources, the IBPA DEI Task Force worked collaboratively with other IBPA board task forces, member committees, and external DEI experts to integrate DEI into existing IBPA programs. Key highlights include:

Online Resource Center (IBPA Advocacy Committee)

The IBPA Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Resource Center includes tools, information, and resources to guide publishers as they integrate DEI initiatives into their own companies. A range of resources cover such topics as DEI definitions, state of the publishing industry, staffing and training, finding diverse authors and readers, developing a DEI plan, and understanding bias associated with racism, gender inequality, ableism, and ageism. IBPA members are invited to suggest additional resources by emailing dei_committee@ibpa-online.org.

Diverse Membership Support (IBPA Board of Directors)

IBPA launched a strategic partnership with Empowering Latino Futures (ELFs) aimed at expanding the services each organization provides its communities. IBPA volunteers served as mentors with specialty publisher groups and regional affiliate members, such as Minnesota Black Publishing Arts Collaborative and Bay Area Women in Publishing.

Diverse Leadership Recruitment (IBPA Board Nominating Committee)

The 2021 IBPA Board Nominating Committee used an updated interview guide and recruited a diverse group of applicants, resulting in a slate of approved candidates for IBPA’s Board of Directors that better reflects the diversity of IBPA membership.

Member Benefits Criteria (IBPA Member Benefits Committee)

New criteria were added to the evaluation tool used by IBPA Member Benefits Committee members when discerning new member benefits. Companies applying to offer member benefits must meet minimum criteria for diversity, equity, and inclusion within their organizations so IBPA is assured its partners align with IBPA’s antiracist and other nondiscriminatory and inclusive values.

Publishing University Sessions (IBPA PubU Task Force)

IBPA Publishing University 2021 featured several DEI- focused conversations, including a “Voices for Inclusion in the Book Publishing Industry” panel moderated by Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) Chief Equity and Inclusion Officer April Powers. Shabnam Banerjee-McFarland (Berrett-Koehler Publishers) and Jalissa Corrie (Lee and Low Books) shared valuable perspectives on how traditional publishing’s roots in privilege, bias, and exclusion have significantly impacted the books that have been published.

Diverse Articles (IBPA Editorial Advisory Committee)

The IBPA Independent bimonthly member magazine has been publishing articles from and about writers and publishers of diverse backgrounds for several years. In addition to the DEI-related articles in this issue, other recent articles include “Where to Start With Diversity, Inclusion, and Bias Training,” (March/April 2021); “BIPOC Representation in Book Publishing” by Jalissa Corrie and Pat Simmons (Sept/Oct 2020); and “Persistence in the Face of Turmoil: Creating Black Lead Characters” by Paul Dixon (Sept/Oct 2020).

Updated Documents and Policies (JP Enterprises)

Together with contracted DEI experts, IBPA reviewed and updated its governing documents, policies, processes, and procedures. As an antiracist organization, IBPA expects its members to agree to inclusivity as a core value and to abide by a code of ethics. The IBPA Code of Ethics was revised to include a stand-alone pledge “to not publish works that encourage violence or hate speech.” The process of joining and renewing IBPA membership was modified to include mandatory check boxes for “I understand and agree to uphold IBPA’s Core Values” and “I understand and agree to uphold IBPA’s Code of Ethics.” Committee charters and other documents were also updated to ensure welcoming and inclusive language and DEI best practices.

To ensure continual implementation of DEI best practices within IBPA programs, the IBPA DEI Task Force of the board has transferred its charge to a new IBPA DEI Committee, comprised of members of the board of directors and at-large IBPA members.

IBPA DEI Committee

The IBPA Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion (DEI) Committee became a standing committee July 1, 2021. Carrying forward the work of the IBPA DEI Task Force, the committee’s objective is to foster diversity, equity, and inclusion within IBPA as an association, as well as the overall book publishing industry at large. Specifically, the IBPA DEI Committee is charged to:

    • Help IBPA recruit and retain a diverse membership base.
    • Develop ways to engage and support underrepresented groups in IBPA’s community, education, advocacy, and tools for success.
    • Identify opportunities for diversity, equity, and inclusion within IBPA as an association, as well as the overall book publishing industry at large.
    • Offer suggestions to the IBPA Board of Directors as to how IBPA programs and services can be improved to better serve diverse communities.
    • Manage IBPA’s online resource guide for diversity, equity, and inclusion.

The DEI Committee will also serve as a resource and sounding board for other IBPA committees to fulfill IBPA’s commitment to integrate DEI throughout all association programs and practices, and to advance diversity, equity, inclusion, representation, and access within the independent publishing community.

Enabling positive, actionable, systemic change throughout IBPA and the publishing industry at large is a community effort and responsibility. As you take steps to advance DEI within your own organization, we encourage you to use the IBPA DEI Resource Center and share other resources you find helpful. Reach out to colleagues who may benefit from IBPA membership. Write an article for IBPA Independent. Share your experience!

Contact the IBPA DEI Committee with questions, comments, or concerns in support of antiracism, diversity, equity, and inclusion at dei_committee@ibpa-online.org.

Karen Pavlicin is publisher of Elva Resa Publishing, a traditional independent publisher specializing in books for and about military families. She is serving her fourth year as a member of the IBPA Board of Directors. An Executive Committee member, Pavlicin served three years on the Editorial Advisory Committee as well as several board task forces, including the IBPA DEI Task Force and PubU Task Force.

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