A few regional bookseller associations have held spring forums already, including the California Independent Booksellers Association’s gathering in San Diego on March 8, and Mountains and Plains Independent Booksellers Association’s meeting in Dallas this past Friday. This week, as the coronavirus pandemic crisis gathers worsens, the regionals are tweaking their spring schedules to both protect their members and adhere to guidelines set by the Centers for Disease Control. Both CALIBA and MPIBA are canceling a second planned forum, though both hope to reschedule these meetings for early summer, after BookExpo.
While the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association simply canceled its April 14 Seattle spring forum, and promises to give priority to authors affected by this move in its fall show programming, two others rescheduled their April events: the Midwest Independent Booksellers Association postponed its April 5-6 spring forum in Bayfield, Wis. to June 1-2, immediately following BookExpo; the New England Independent Booksellers Association postponed its April 7 meeting in Portland, Me. to June 10-11.
As for the New Atlantic Independent Booksellers Association, the Southern Booksellers Association, and the Great Lakes Independent Booksellers Association, GLIBA executive director Larry Law expressed it best when he told PW, “We’re not canceling our forums, we’re just shifting what we’re doing.” GLIBA will hold its “first virtual spring forum” rather than gathering in Kalamazoo, Mich. on April 16. The entire spring forum will be streamed online, as authors participate via Zoom for live presentations on April 16 followed by Q&As with each author. The Q&As will be followed by a virtual bookstore tour led by booksellers Joanna Parzakonis and Derek Molitor of BookBug in Kalamazoo. And, Law promises, not only will galleys be shipped to booksellers before the virtual forum, but more programming will be announced.
“We remain positive and upbeat in this unusual time,” Law said, “We’re really leaning into the idea of a virtual forum and making it fun.”
NAIBA is also using Zoom to bring together its member booksellers, but not on the same scale as GLIBA. NAIBA’s spring forum was originally scheduled to take place on April 2 at the American Booksellers Association’s offices in White Plains, N.Y. in the same county as New Rochelle, a coronavirus hot spot. The meeting instead will be a Zoom conference call taking place on the same date. Thus far, says NAIBA executive director Eileen Dengler, close to 15 booksellers have registered. Usually 40-70 booksellers attend NAIBA’s spring forums.
As for SIBA, it comes as no surprise that a regional association famed for its lively and even raucous bookseller gatherings would tweak its scheduling, and in the process even increase attendance and build upon the variety of bookstores represented
Rather than holding its spring forum on March 19 in Athens, Ga., SIBA’s incoming director, Linda Marie Barrett, explained, the organization is holding small gatherings in 11 different locations across the South. The meetings began on March 9 in Tampa, Fla. and were scheduled to run through March 19 in Athens, Ga., although the meetings on March 16 in Greenville, S.C. and the March 19 meeting, were canceled due to guidelines regarding social distancing; the ABA was part of a Zoom call yesterday and will be part of another one on the 19th.
The mini-forums were dubbed “March Madness” and drew about 80 booksellers total, a 32% increase from last year’s spring forum attendance. Each hosting bookseller, Barrett added, “focused on something they do really well” during their gathering. Each session is going to become a webinar to be accessed through SIBA’s website.
“It turned out to be really great,” Barrett said, “It’s just what booksellers needed.”
Barrett’s assessment was confirmed by several booksellers who provided feedback to her, including Jessica Nock of Main Street Books in Davidson, N.C., who attended a March Madness mini forum in Winston-Salem. "What an amazing investment of our time to come together with other booksellers in the midst of pandemic angst and learn, share ideas and talk our love of indies," she wrote.
Correction: Linda Marie Barrett is SIBA's incoming director, not the current director. She will replace Wanda Jewell as director on June 1.