The Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association gathered on Zoom for its annual membership meeting yesterday, part of the organization’s four-day “virtual edition” of its Fall Tradeshow. Members around the region are recovering from a wildfire season that has already burned through more than a million acres and put hundreds of thousands of residents on evacuation notice.

Karen Emmerling (the owner of ​Beach Books in Seaside, Ore.) outlined a recent PNBA initiative to provide books to shelters in Washington and Oregon. Around nine bookstores participated in the program, collecting more than 1,500 books for people who lost their homes in the fires. PNBA board member James Crossley (of Madison Books in Seattle) praised Book Industry Charitable Foundation (Binc)’s role in helping booksellerss impacted by the wildfires and other crises to recover and urged members to contribute. “They are currently receiving an average of 10 to 12 requests weekly for help with housing, utility payments, medical and dental expenses and more wildfire relief,” Crossley said, encouraging members to donate and spread the word. “Direct word of mouth is the best way to get information to booksellers.”

Despite altered work schedules, screen fatigue, and a Presidential debate, executive director Brian Juenemann was impressed by attendance at the show, which began Tuesday. “Projections for our planning purposes generally ran from about 40 to 100 people per event,” he said. “We're hitting the high side of those projections so far.”

“We're in really good and really strong financial position,” said executive assistant and bookkeeper Larry West, who assured members that association had previously saved enough money to keep the group running for years. “Our whole strategy has been to have enough money set aside so that when we have bad years, we don't have to worry about it. We can still do the trade shows, we can still do the catalog, and we can still do all of our programs for our membership,” he said.

When the pandemic lockdown began in March 2020, PNBA extended its membership opportunities to all booksellers and librarians in the organization’s database, not just dues-paying members. “We knew how many people were longing for information and connection,” said Juenemann. “Our hope was to help in the now and to expand the awareness and appreciation of what PNBA has to offer for the future.”

The organization has produced about 20 virtual programming opportunities since March for this expanded community and PNBA will offer a discount incentive to new and dues-paying members for 2021. The organization also plans on offering a Covid response grant as well, helping booksellers with costs associated with masks, signage, floor decals, online marketing, and more. “The precise total is yet to be determined, but the relief will be designed to provide a modest year end reimbursement for a wide variety of member responses to the pandemic,” said Juenemann.

In another sign of the strength of the association, West said the awards committee had already received 377 nominations for the annual PNBA book awards. “So for all the weirdness of this year, we've still they've still got lots of books to follow through to pick a winner,” said West.