The Great Lakes Independent Booksellers Association held its annual membership meeting on Tuesday morning, and much of the discussion during the gathering of about 50 booksellers and publishers' reps concerned the American Booksellers Association’s Boxed Out Marketing campaign in which installations were placed outside six stores, four of them in New York City, and one each in Los Angeles and Washington, D.C. Since the launch, other stores around the country have put up their own displays and there is a social media component to the campaign.

ABA executive director Allison Hill gave a report on the campaign and the impact of national media coverage, explaining that “we feel that it’s a great opportunity to pay attention to the stores right now and hopefully that raises awareness for your stores with your customers and beyond, some of those consumers who aren’t your hardcore customers, who need to be reminded.”

During the Town Hall portion of the meeting, Joanna Parzakonis, co-owner of Bookbug and This Is A Bookstore in Kalamazoo, Mich. who is GLIBA board secretary, took Hill to task for the Boxed Out campaign’s rollout in three major cities on the two coasts, with 14 indies in cities around the country being informed ahead of time of the specifics of the campaign and provided with assets.

“I wouldn’t be doing my job if not for advocating for our region and understanding how at times a bookstore in the middle of the country or not near a large metropolitan area feels like an afterthought,” Parzakonis said, “My own store and others around me did feel a bit surprised and excited by the Boxed Out campaign, but clearly several stores were given a large heads up in order to be able to print and produce the visuals that the press latched onto. As a region and as stores outside large metro areas, we want to feel we’re getting messages in a timely way and that there isn’t a system of privilege within the ABA with access to marketing materials. We want to know things when other stores know them.”

In response, Hill provided some context for the Boxed Out strategy. “The idea was not to push out ahead of time with everyone having notice, because if some stores put things up and the media gets sight of that, and the way that it’s perceived, ‘Oh I’ve already seen that, it’s something that’s already happened, and I don’t need to cover it.’ We needed it to be, ‘Oh this has just happened; overnight something happened.’”

“Six stores effectively became billboards.” Hill added, explaining that the strategy was to attract national media, which would then interest regional and local media. “The agency strategically chose stores based on all kinds of factors, [including] whether reporters lived in their neighborhoods,” she said.

“It was always intended to create this grassroots kind of rolling campaign across the country where stores could jump on. It was always intended to be a social media campaign in which everyone could participate in their own way.”

“I think the campaign is fantastic,” Parzakonis responded. “I’m just taking the opportunity to say [in terms of] equity and inclusion and access, understanding that those of us who do feel geographically marginalized and/or financially marginalized, that we have a voice and get information in a timely way. I’m raising a hand for our region saying we’d like to be among those who are given primary access to information by ABA.”

During his report on the state of the organization, Larry Law, GLIBA’s executive director, noted that “despite everything that 2020 has thrown at us, we’ve grown as a region.” GLIBA has added 11 new stores this past year, and now has 154 member bookstores.

Law also described Heartland Summer, a bi-weekly event that took place throughout the summer into the fall, as a success. “I think it was great, it was difficult, but it was great,” he said, as 23 events featuring presentations by 59 authors and 40 publishers attracted 780 attendees. “We had a couple thousand views on our videos, so people were interested, people came out for it. Overall, Heartland Summer was a success.”