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The NAIBA Joe Drabyak Handseller of the Year Award
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Kathy Rodgers, Handseller of the Year

Kathy Rodgers of Browseabout Books in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, has won the 2016 Drabyak Handseller of the Year award.  Kathy is a passionate reader who has made a career in books, sharing her vast knowledge and enthusiasm with the thousands of customers she’s helped over forty years.

Kathy has amassed a wealth of knowledge of authors that is almost unparalleled. Kathy has a loyal following of her staff picks, with customers coming in just to see what she has read recently.  Her bookstore manager, Susan Kehoe, said, “She works closely with many of our younger staff members and sets a great example of what a bookseller should be and do.  Our sales reps send arcs specifically to her, knowing that if she loves the book, our sales could increase dramatically.”

“Kathy is passionate about books.  Reading books, of course, but also matching just the right book to just the right reader.  Looking for a great Scandinavian mystery?  Ask Kathy.  A great beach read?  Ask Kathy.  Scottish authors?  Ask Kathy.  Horror?  Ask Kathy.  Contemporary women fiction?  Ask Kathy.  A book for your 2-year-old granddaughter?  Ask Kathy,” continued Susan. “When I process the sales from the previous day, I immediately know when Kathy has been working.  She is so nicely aggressive about her favorite authors that I can tell exactly what books she was out on the floor placing in someone's eager hands. “

Kathy began her bookselling career as a part-timer at Encore Books in Bucks County, PA.  “I knew this was my calling. It was thrilling to share my book knowledge with customers and to direct them to their next reading adventure,” recalled Kathy.  She worked for a short time in the corporate world before returning to bookselling, this time with Borders Books & Music as a corporate sales rep.  “I had a different set of customers, but it was still all about the books and putting the right titles in their hands.”

When Kathy and her husband relocated to Delaware, she found her dream job at an independent bookstore, Browseabout Books in Rehoboth Beach.

”Here, at Browseabout Books, handselling is a top priority.  In this technology driven world, with the online giant looming over us all, I feel blessed to have found an oasis of like-minded coworkers and dedicated readers,” says Kathy. “I feel that this award is the icing on the cake of my book selling career. It reinforces my belief that handselling is still an integral and relevant part of the book business. I feel validated. Thank you for this.”

Kathy will be honored at the NAIBA Fall Conference's Awards Banquet on Sunday, October 16 in Baltimore, MD. Please join us  in honoring one of our own.

Previous winners of the NAIBA Rep of the Year Award are:

2015: Sean Curran of Doylestown Bookshop in Doylestown, PA

2014: Michael Fortney of Chester County Book Company in West Chester, PA

2013: Alicia Michielli of Talking Leaves... Books in Buffalo, NY

2012: Rob Dougherty of Clinton Book Shop in Clinton, NJ

2011: Ellen Mager of Booktenders Secret Garden Children's Bookstore in Doylestown, PA

About Joe Drabyak

Joe DrabyakIn honor of NAIBA President and friend, the late Joe Drabyak, NAIBA has created the Joe Drabyak Handseller of the Year Award to recognize booksellers who put their passion for books into practice with marketing and promotions.

Joe Drabyak was renowned in the industry for his creative promotional efforts. He could build excitement around any title with unusual events (have you heard about Joe's Nuts?), clever pairings, and handselling talent.

For Joe, a good book was a wonder to treasure. His wife, Reggie Painter, remembers: "He would often say to me while I was reading a good book, "Isn't it wonderful to have a good book to read?" Not only did Joe revel in the having a good book to read but got such a thrill out of putting it in the hands of someone else to enjoy as much as he did. He would sit at his lunch table at the store reading up to the very last second of his break. He could advise a customer on which new authors were not to be missed. He relished the advanced reader copies from publisher reps and most of all those precious manuscripts that authors would send him for his opinion. After reading one such manuscript, Black Hawk Down by Mark Bowden, Joe told Mark that it would be nominated for a National Book Award. When it was nominated, Mark invited Joe to attend the National Book Awards Dinner at Atlantic Grove's table with Mark's wife, mother, Buzz Bizzinger, and Morgan Entreken," Reggie said. "It was the only time I would ever see him in a tux."

Joe captured the essence of a book with his witty quotes, which often appeared in a book's promotional campaigns. His skill creating non-author store events captured the unwary customer with enough intrigue to sell the book. He had a loyal following and even those who didn't know him would always pick up a Joe's pick, because they could confidently rely on Joe's solid recommendation alone.

There is a Joe inside many booksellers, and we want that spirit to stay alive and flourish. Nominate the bookseller in your life who shares their passion for books with customers in creative, fun, and unusual ways. Tell us a little bit about them and how they enhance the handselling experience. The winner will be recognized by their NAIBA colleagues at the Awards Banquet at the Fall Conference, and receive a complimentary packet of all the Fall Conference event tickets.