Accent on Education and Professional Development at Lively GLBA Show

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    By Liz Murphy of The Learned Owl Book Shop in Hudson, Ohio

    I always return from the Great Lakes Booksellers Association fall trade show re-enthused, re-vitalized, and (almost) ready to face the holidays! This show was no different.

    Book Cents. The Book Doctor is In. These two concepts were the threads running through the entire convention. The first concept is that small, bottom-line improvements to payroll, margins, and occupancy expense can start moving any store from not-profitable to profitable. The second is, let the expertise of fellow booksellers show you how to do this by using ABACUS, BookScan, and their experiences in joint promotions, outside sales, sidelines, handselling, and more.

    On Friday, ABA's two-and-a-half hour session "The 2% Solution" was packed, and while many people were experiencing it for the first time, I heard others commenting that it was their second or third session and that they learned something new each time. For me, it took this second look at "The 2% Solution" and the ABACUS results to convince me that taking a good hard look at my own numbers might really help my business.

    Sunday's sessions were just as crowded as Friday's. One of the most important points to come out of many of the seminars was that there really are no new ideas, and no need to try and start from scratch. Whether it be promotional ideas, "shop locally" literature, or how to develop an e-mail newsletter, it has been done before, and in many cases there are not only ideas, but forms, fliers, and set-up charts to be downloaded!

    I've always found a tremendous willingness on the part of other bookstores' staff to share ideas and experiences (good and bad!). In the early days of GLBA, the convention consisted of the trade show and a couple of roundtables where booksellers were encouraged to sit and share ideas. The current education program is a natural outgrowth of that, with individuals sharing their knowledge on panels or by leading workshops.

    Following this train of thought, at the ABA booth I discovered that soon members will be able to go to BookWeb.org to watch the educational presentations that were taped at BookExpo America 2005! And, if you'd rather actually be at the educational sessions in person or want to send some staff, ABA's Winter Education Institute this January is in Long Beach, California, offering high temperatures, low airfares, and really low hotel rates, in addition to the valuable seminars and tasty meal events.

    While I don't have the numbers, the trade show appeared full and lively, with booksellers and librarians crowding into booths to see the latest. Vendors at the show were very generous with Silent Auction items, and 10 of Gibbs Smith's prints of bookstores helped make the total collected the largest ever, at the mystical number of $5,555.

    Because I see many sales reps, I used the opportunity on Saturday to explore smaller or new publishers that I didn't know, as well as to place some "Show Special" orders with my current accounts. Mitten Press, a new division of Ann Arbor Media Group, was causing a stir, with several delightful Christmas titles, and at least three books in this year's GLBA catalog. Always on the lookout for new and different sidelines, I was attracted to Boku's very fine (but nicely priced) line of journals and notepads and the new "Thumb-Thing" from Fun-n-nuf.

    Missed on the floor this year was Annie the Springer Spaniel from Chagrin River Publishing, a show regular who died this past summer. Her "brother" Tak was there, representing the series of books based on the dogs.

    The show was filled with convivial meal events, starting with the Book Awards Luncheon on Friday, and ending with the Children's Breakfast on Sunday morning (which was said to be the best ever). Studs Terkel made an unannounced visit during Saturday night's Banquet, adding excitement to the already great line-up of speakers.

    At Saturday's Breakfast with the Board, Board members were truly inspired, and presented "The Book Doctor," who rushed in with a wheelchair full of remedies for an ailing store. Vials of pills, purportedly solving everything from depression to poor sales, were dispensed to all -- a cute way to present a very important GLBA program, which makes the expertise of more experienced booksellers available to those who need help. Right now, help with ABACUS, BookScan, and independent business alliances is offered by a panel of booksellers who will confidentially answer any questions. There are dozens more topics awaiting volunteers.

    The authors were fantastic -- at meal events, readings, signings (which the publishers so generously supported with books), and often at the booths on the trade show floor. I think they were as psyched by our enthusiasm as we were pysched to have them there!

    GLBA is a friendly show. Because it is regional, regular attendees see each other every year, both on the floor and in the workshops, and the reps you see in the booths are either ones who call on you, or the same ones who attend every year. And because everyone is familiar, it's easier to ask questions ... and perhaps easier to learn. I enjoyed all the familiar faces I saw, and was amazed and happy at the number of prospective booksellers who were there. I congratulate all of them on their foresight.

    I've been very lucky to have been successful for 23 years.... Who knows how good The Learned Owl might have been if I had had the sense to get some advice from experienced booksellers before I took over!


    Related GLBA Trade Show News

    GLBA installed new board members and officers for the coming year.

    New GLBA board members, with terms ending in 2008, are:

    • Cynthia Compton, 4 Kids Books, Indianapolis, Indiana
    • Ernie Ford, Fine Print Books, Greencastle, Indiana
    • Leah Hays, Simon & Schuster Books for Children, Bloomington, Indiana
    • Sue Boucher (re-elected), Lake Forest Book Store, Lake Forest, Illinois

    New GLBA officers, 2005 - 2006 (one-year terms) are:

    • President: Nicola Rooney, Nicola's Books, Ann Arbor, Michigan
    • Vice-President: Carol Besse, Carmichael's Bookstore, Louisville, Kentucky
    • Secretary: Jill Miner, Saturn Booksellers, Gaylord, Michigan
    • Treasurer: Tom Lowry, Lowry's Books, Three Rivers, Michigan
    • Past President: Sue Boucher, Lake Forest Book Store, Lake Forest, Illinois

    GLBA Executive Director Jim Dana noted that the association's silent auction earned $5,555 for GLBA's First Amendment Defense Fund. In addition, show participants donated $1,351 to ABA's Bookseller Relief Fund, which GLBA matched, for a total donation of $2,702. GLBA also donated extra books and $1,391 to Literature for All of Us, a Chicago charity whose goal is to bring literacy and literature to teen mothers in the Chicago area.

    The winner of an ABA scholarship to the inaugural Winter Education Institute was Mary K. Culver of Reading Railroad: A Children's Bookshop in Sylvania, Ohio. Culver was selected at random from booksellers who dropped off a business card at the ABA booth on the trade show floor. The scholarship includes airfare and hotel accommodations to attend the Institute, which will be held on Thursday, January 26, and Friday, January 27, 2006, in Long Beach, California.

    The winner of an inkjet printer, also selected at random at the ABA booth, was Bridget Rothenberger of Nomad Bookhouse in Concord, Michigan.

    Next year's GLBA show is scheduled for October 6 - 8, in Dearborn, Michigan.