The first in-person Heartland Fall Forum since 2019 will be used to mark the first decade of the partnership between the Great Lakes Independent Booksellers Association and the Midwest Independent Booksellers Association, which resulted in HFF.
The impetus behind the decision to join forces came from publishers, who encouraged the two associations, which together represent booksellers in 13 states from Nebraska to Ohio, to combine forces to create a single, more robust show. A joint show had the added advantage of enabling the two groups to combine resources and streamline operations at a time when many bookstores and bookselling associations were still recovering from the Great Recession of 2007–2009.
The initial GLIBA-MIBA gathering, a spring meeting in 2011, proved so successful that the two groups decided to continue the experiment by cohosting combined fall shows for the next two years, alternating between GLIBA’s and MIBA’s respective territories, starting with one in Minneapolis in 2012. Energy and attendance were strong at the initial HFF, which drew 770 people from the book industry, including nearly 400 booksellers.
By the start of the second HFF just outside Chicago in 2013, MIBA and GLIBA were fully convinced that fall shows were better together. At the opening reception, then–GLIBA executive director Deb Leonard announced that the two groups would hold a combined HFF “forever and in perpetuity.”
In the intervening years, says Larry Law, current executive director of GLIBA, “Heartland continues to grow and evolve to better suit our regions.” It was active in providing virtual education from the start of Covid—and will continue to do so. HFF has also brought the two associations closer and led them to collaborate on the Heartland Booksellers Award for outstanding adult and children’s books with a Midwest connection, and the Voice of the Heartland Award honoring individuals who have made a significant contribution to bookselling in the Midwest.
“GLIBA and MIBA’s fall shows began separately, and each year as Heartland we have worked together to make sure we are celebrated as one giant community,” Law says. This year, notes Carrie Obry, executive director of MIBA, who worked on the creation of HFF and continues to develop subsequent HFF gatherings, the celebration includes a party in St. Louis sponsored by 10 publishers, one for each year, as well as a photo retrospective on the HFF website. In addition, HFF is making a merchandise push to sell commemorative T-shirts, hoodies, and coffee mugs, with part of the profits going to Binc. Among the pieces in the collection are some that highlight a favorite moment from the 2018 HFF, in which poet Danez Smith thanked “strange capitalist librarians” in MIBA and GLIBA for selecting them as the recipient for the Midwestern Booksellers Choice Award in poetry for Don’t Call Us Dead.