Set against the backdrop of the SCOTUS hearing for Brett Kavanaugh, this year’s New England Independent Booksellers Association fall conference, which took place at the Rhode Island Convention Center in Providence, R.I. from September 25–27, was energetic. As Carole Horne of Harvard Book Store in Cambridge, Mass., noted, “In terms of business, everybody’s feeling pretty good. I’ve heard a lot of people saying it’s a good fall for books.”

Politics served as both text and subtext to the conference, which opened with a keynote by Barack Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett (Finding My Voice) in conversation with Valerie Holmes Ward, director of public affairs and community services and host of CityLine at WCVB Boston.

Ruth Liebmann, v-p of account marketing at PRH, attributed politics to the show’s upbeat tone. “The mood is good,” she said. “I wonder if the turmoil makes people want community.”

Being a panelist on “Bookstores and Political Activism in the Current Climate,” inspired Nancy Braus of Everyone’s Books in Brattleboro, Vt., to get political at the show. She collected bookseller signatures on a petition to be hand-delivered to Hachette to persuade it to move to recyclable and/or reusable packaging for its shipments. “Everyone else uses bubble wrap or paper,” she said.

Other educational sessions covered nuts and bolts topics like “How to Be Smarter About Inventory Management” and “Creative Event Marketing” as well as carrying diverse books. The association’s children’s alliance (NECBA) announced its annual list of titles for its Windows & Mirrors project, which encourages booksellers to promote newly released diverse kids’ books at the holidays, and throughout the year.

American Booksellers Association CEO Oren Teicher and senior program officer Joy Dallanegra-Sanger led a session, which is being held at each regional, on “Maximizing Pre-Order Campaigns.” “Three to 30% of units are presold,” said Teicher. “Amazon has owned this business. It is a piece of the business we could actually get.”

Although one publisher complained off the record about the fact that NEIBA and the other regionals have long since stopped being about the orders, rep group Chesapeake & Hudson was pleased to sign four new accounts. Conor Broughan of Columbia University Press, who found the show floor especially busy in the morning, commented, “It’s nice to meet buyers.”

Even before NEIBA opened, Europa Editions had decided to up its support not just for NEIBA but for other regional shows. Editor-in-chief Michael Reynolds said that he finds it “worthwhile” to be at the shows and has begun slowly growing the number that the press attends. Europa will be at five this fall, up from three last year.

First timer Eliza Prescott of Phoenix Books in Burlington, Vt., may not have placed any orders, but she told PW that she was looking for princess books and middle grade nature and science titles with strong characters to bring in to the store. And Print: A Bookstore in Portland, Maine, closed on Wednesday so that its booksellers could attend.

Several new store owners were also present. Among them were Meghan Hayden, who will open 900 sq. ft. River Bend Bookshop in South Glastonbury, Ct., in November, and Jo and Huck Truesdell who are planning a 2019 opening for TidePool BookShop in Worcester, Mass. It will be the first general bookstore in New England’s second largest city since the closing of Tatnuck at the beginning of 2006.

Both the children’s and adult author breakfasts were “great,” said Ellen Richmond of Children’s Book Cellar in Waterville, Maine. At the closing breakfast, Adriana Trigiani (Tony’s Wife) urged booksellers to “take care of yourselves and go see the world.” She also suggested that NEIBA should pull itself together and go someplace fancy like Greece. Expressing concern for booksellers’ financial stability and ability to buy their buildings, Walter Mosley (John Woman) announced at the beginning of his talk, “I would be happy to belong to the Booksellers’ Credit Union.”

Next year NEIBA will be back in Providence from October 2–4 with one change. Long time administrative coordinator Nan Sorensen will retire in July.