Monday, July 13, 2009

A Day with Librarians, Part 1: What Booksellers Become When They Grow Up

An opportunity fell in my lap when I was invited to be a guest attendee at the American Library Association, meeting in Chicago through this Tuesday. Since I missed Book Expo America, it seemed like a no-brainer. It would be my first trip out of metro Milwaukee since the store opened. Though it was just a day trip on the Amtrak Hiawatha line (attention authors and publishers, it's really convenient, relaxing, and relatively inexpensive), it was out of state, after all.

The ALA convention is a bit different. More display fixtures, more databases, less knickknacks for sale. There are still some entrepreneurial booths. One was for a "how to shoeshine" DVD. I'm so fascinated by a couple of ancillary booths that I'm saving them for another posting.

Most, but not all of the publishers were there, including some who sat BEA out. You can see, however, that it's all done on a modest scale, with the booths being simpler, and sometimes not more than tables with a header. Also, unlike Book Expo, many publishers sell their titles, often for half off, sometimes for $5. One booth offered free books, but you had to sign up for their newsletter.

As bookseller "sneaking" into a librarian convention, I felt a little guilty, even though my librarian friends regularly attend BEA. Actually, it's been a long time since BEA was for booksellers, and librarians are now courted. At the expense of ALA? At least one of my friend forewent (is that correct?) the latter for the former. I reasoned it out that I do some event work with the Milwaukee Public Library and have participated in programs with the libraries of Shorewood and Whitefish Bay. Maybe I'll come up with an idea that I'll pass on to them! Perhaps a library event will come of this.

There were authors and advanced readers copies (I feel like an apostrophe goes in there somewhere)and a lot of workshops. There's a greater focus on kids' books, and that's not bad for me, as I spend a lot more time thinking about the kids' section than I did when I was the adult book buyer.

The best surprise was that I did know a few more folks at the booths than I expected. I got some of that networking and reconnecting that I didn't get at the show. I'm hoping some brainstorming might lead to an event or two.

I would particularly like to thank Talia and Anne for making this happen, and in exchange, I have a list of Macmillan titles that I am now under some sort of obligation to read. Talia's thinking I should try Theresa Schwegel's Last Known Address, while Anne feels that Victor Lodato's Mathilda Savitch is the book for me.

I even stood in line for one signed book, James Ellroy's Blood's a Rover. In front of me was a woman who tried to get an unsigned copy without the line, but Random House told her the books were reserved for signed copies and they weren't sure they'd have enough. A little peeved, she swung her head back and forth from the end of the line to where she was needed to be in a hurry. In the end, she decided the free galley was worth it.

She seemed upset so I figured time might go faster if she chatted. I said, "I'm waiting in line as well, but I'm not really a librarian. I'm a bookseller."
Her reply? "Oh, I'm not a bookseller either. I'm here with my friend whose visiting." So much for righteous indignation.


Michael C. said...

So glad you enjoyed ALA, Daniel... and so disappointed that I am (I assume) your friend who forewent ALA for BEA and missed you. We need to plan that better next time. Glad Talia was able to help out too!

Gerard Saylor said...

I just missed the Demon Dog. I didn't even know he was there until I wandered by the publisher's booth and saw the sign.

mcrchicago said...

Glad to know you got maintenance dose of book show into your system. I was afraid you would have a case of the bends if you went too long without one!
Looking forward to a relaxing ride on the Hiawatha line to the Cream City soon. Will they let me bring my bike?