Following up our story from last Friday on what the regional associates are doing to help members, association directors in New England and in California promise they will be offering assistance to their booksellers.
At the New England Independent Booksellers Association, executive director Beth Ineson reported that the organization is offering a variety of support, including daily Zoom calls for information sharing, weekly owner/manager calls by state, a comprehensive Covid-19 resource center on newenglandbooks.org, sharing technology to facilitate stores' transition to online events and promotion, and outreach to stores that aren’t NEIBA members giving them access to NEIBA outreach/resources. The organization also made a substantial donation to Binc.
"The booksellers needs are changing daily due to the fluid situation," said Ineson. "Last week, it was clarity on state-by-state orders about what businesses could and could not do. These edicts varied by state, and, in some cases, by municipality within that state, so it was challenging to be sure that everyone was on the same page and able to generate as much revenue as possible. This week, it has been all about publishers’ and wholesalers’ shipping restrictions. Who is shipping how and where. Their needs right now, beyond supply chain clarity, are sources of funding that will provide operating capital moving forward."
Looking ahead, NEIBA anticipates offering Zoom rep pick sessions, a "One Quarantine/One Book” region-wide event, and bookseller videos pitching new release titles designed for all-store social-media sharing
Asked what is on bookseller's minds, Ineson replied: "This situation has been uniquely leveling in that everyone is asking the same questions—in what ways can we generate revenue, how is our supply chain working, and will we get help with operating capital." As for silver linings, she said that while the online book sales stores are seeing are "better than nothing" they will not offset lost walk-in sales. Still she noted, "this online moment been an extraordinary community builder for these stores, who are in the community-building business every day regularly."
Out west in California, California Independent Booksellers Alliance (CALIBA) executive director Calvin Crosby said the CALIBA board has voted to delay annual dues deadlines into May; it has also recognized all stores in California as members and is providing them all messaging, resources and support. "Operations director Ann Seaton and I are responding to inquiries from booksellers throughout the state, lots of phone calls, lots of Zoom meetings, the connection to the organization is strong," Crosby said.
CALIBA is hosting a regular Zoom call every Tuesday at 10 a.m. for the foreseeable future. "The space to interact with and to share best practices or ideas with colleagues facing the same issues has always been a priority for California Bookseller, said Crosby. "The value of interacting as a community has grown exponentially."
Unsurprisingly, stores engaged in e-commerce are especially busy and have many questions. "The website engagement is growing daily and the level of social media engagement being offered is quite amazing. Our adapting to technology streaming storytimes, book groups, and staff recommendations has been amazing to watch. There are innovating daily to continue the engagement with their customers and keep book sales happening," said Crosby.
Come fall, Crosby said he hopes the membership can come together as usual for its annual fall show. "When this is over we will need to gather in the worse way," he said.