The change in venue from an airport hotel in Portland to an independent hotel in Tacoma, which showcased the work of Northwest glass artists, helped make this year’s Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association three-day show (Oct. 13-15) particularly vibrant. Booksellers and librarians were buoyed to meet more than 100—including many children’s and YA authors and illustrators, from Jon Klassen (This Is Not My Hat) to Miriam Forster (City of a Thousand Dolls), Justina Chen (Return to Me), and Rosemary Wells (Max and Ruby’s Treasure Hunt).
The show drew a number of new booksellers like Todd Halbert, who opened a used bookstore, Finally Found Books in Black Diamond, Wash., this summer in the same location vacated by Baker Books when it closed in April. He is devoting a portion of the space to new titles and about 25% of the inventory and sales are children’s and YA, he told PW.
In addition to new retailers, at least one longtime bookseller was back in a new role. René Kirkpatrick, who worked for many years at the now closed All for Kids Books & Music children’s bookstore in Seattle, attended as a new partner at 43-year-old Eagle Harbor Book Co., on Bainbridge Island, Wash. Altogether, though, bookseller attendance was down slightly with representatives from 90 stores out of 155 member stores. But the exhibit hall was busy both days. “Vendors said it was the best show in a couple of years. The attitude [on the floor] was fabulous,” said PNBA executive director Thom Chambliss.
Financial concerns about the organization itself, which had been bubbling up since last year’s annual meeting when PNBA announced a five-figure loss for the year, were mostly relegated to the back burner. But the lack of printed programs, one of many ways in which the group tried to cut costs, caused some difficulties when attendees were unable to access the organization’s server in the run-up to the show and during the first day. At this year’s annual meeting members were heartened to learn that PNBA will likely break even in 2012. Still, Chambliss said that he has begun conversations with the board about his job, since staff is one of the biggest line items on the PNBA budget.
Educational programming was in no way diminished by straitened circumstances and included sessions ranging from Pick of the Lists for New Children’s Books to Building Community and E-Books and Independent Bookstores. “PNBA’s more helpful than ALA and PLA,” said Lisa Oldoski, who buys YA and adult nonfiction for Pierce County Library in Tacoma. While Oldoski spent much of the education day sitting in on rep picks, other librarians participated in a special track of programming geared to them with sessions on Forging Better Relationships with Publishers and Adult Storytimes.
Susan Richards, who just completed a thousand sq. ft. expansion of Inklings Bookshop in Yakima, Wash., from 3,100 to 4,100 sq. ft., credited part of her store’s success to the programming at the trade shows. “We made it so far because of education,” she said. Her new space includes a greatly expanded children’s section, which more than doubled, from 600 to 1,000 sq. ft. “There are children born every day who need picture books,” said Richards, explaining her decision to focus on kids’ titles.
ABA’s Joy Dallanagra-Sanger led one of the stand-out educational programs directed at children’s booksellers, called Meeting the Literacy Needs in Your Community. Panelists Kirkpatrick, Mary Bristow, president of Northwest Literacy Foundation, and Sarah Hutton, children’s book buyer at Village Books in Bellingham, Wash., offered suggestions for raising literacy, especially for impoverished children. Hutton encouraged all booksellers to create a Giving Tree this holiday season to encourage people to give books to children who otherwise wouldn’t have them. “It’s an amazing driver,” she said. “Last year we met the wishes of 1,200 kids.” Village Books also sponsors an Anniversary Literacy Run on the anniversary of the store, a Literacy Breakfast with big names in the book world like Nancy Pearl, and fields a team for a Trivia Bee. It even has a free tutoring space in its reading gallery.
Culling ideas from All for Kids, Kirkpatrick recommended introducing parents and teachers to music as “another kind of literacy” and donating galleys to schools in need to raise literacy rates for both parents and children. She’s also found that early parent programs in which the staff reads picture books to adults can be especially effective. Together with Bristow’s organization, Kirkpatrick has created pocket libraries for teens in shelters. Audience members added their own suggestions, including how to get value out of silent auctions for schools. Sue Nevins, a children’s bookseller at Mockingbird Books in Seattle, said that her store values an overnight event at $1,000 or more. She finds that as long as a teacher and a parent stay along with a staff member, there are enough adults to make an overnight work for children between the ages of 8 and 12. Not only do the kids have fun, but it makes money for the schools and she can sell between $200 and $300 worth of books that evening and again the next morning.