Booksellers Helping Booksellers Through Relief Fund

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As the Gulf Coast works toward reconstruction in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the book industry is building initiatives to assist those affected by the storm. In the weeks since it announced the establishment of the Bookseller Relief Fund (BRF), ABA has continued to receive donations to the fund from booksellers, publishers, and others in the industry, and today the association announced it was planning a special one-day fundraising event to be held at member stores on October 1.

Among the booksellers who have been at the forefront of fundraising efforts to benefit their bookseller colleagues are Harry W. Schwartz Bookshops in Wisconsin; Third Street Books of McMinnville, Oregon; and Cook Inlet Book Company in Anchorage, Alaska.

At Harry W. Schwartz Bookshops, management sent a letter to staff at the store's headquarters and five bookstore locations requesting contributions for the Bookseller Relief Fund, CEO Mary McCarthy told BTW. "We made a special appeal to managers and explained what ABA was doing. The letter said, 'Whatever's thrown in the box, the company will match.'" Staff gave $932 and with the matching funds, the Schwartz bookshops raised $1864.

The store has given assistance to hurricane victims in other ways as well. One percent (totaling approximately $1,500) of a recent weekend sale went to the Red Cross. The bookstore is also "sheltering an orphan of the storm," said McCarthy. Two former Harry W. Schwartz booksellers who had moved to affected areas were invited back to work at the stores. One accepted the offer.

Third Street Books in McMinnville, Oregon, hosted a Benefit Day on Saturday, September 17, during which 100 percent of sales collected were to be donated to the fund. "It went really well," said owner Sylla McClellan. "We did double [the sales] of what we usually do." McClellan sent out press releases to local papers, which mentioned the fundraising effort. "Many customers waited until Saturday to buy their books," McClellan said. "People appreciate that we're doing something like this." Still, McClellan wished she could do more. "We're a small store, so we were only able to raise $800. I wish I could say we had a $3,000 day."

McClellan said that the Bookseller Relief Fund was a "perfect" choice from the many charities available. "I wanted to focus my efforts on booksellers, and I wanted to have my community involved. People here are very volunteer-oriented and very helpful to people in need. It's part of our responsibility to do that."

At Cook Inlet Book Company in Anchorage, Alaska, owner Lynne Dixon described several ways the bookstore has raised funds for the Bookseller Relief Fund. "We just put out a big glass jar where people have been dropping their change," she explained.

Dixon hadn't yet counted the jar's contents, but, she noted, there were "lots of dollar bills in there." To supplement the jar, Cook Inlet will be donating a percentage of profits from many of their author signings slated through December. In addition, Cook Inlet has donated $500 to the Salvation Army and will donate another $500 in October.

ABA is encouraging others in the book industry, including its Book Sense Publisher Partners, to contribute to the fund. Contributions to the fund are also being collected at the regional booksellers association trade shows.

Checks should be made payable to the Bookseller Relief Fund and sent to ABA's office at 200 White Plains Rd., Tarrytown, NY 10591. Please write "Bookseller Relief" on the outside of the envelope.

For more on hurricane relief efforts, go to and for a related story in this week's BTW, click here. --Karen Schechner