NCIBA Spring Gathering Offers a 'Splendid Day'

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On Sunday, April 15, the American Booksellers Association offered a Booksellers Forum -- including the education session "Participating in the Digital Revolution" -- in conjunction with the Northern California Independent Booksellers Association's (NCIBA) Spring Gathering, which was held at the Thoreau Center of the Presidio in San Francisco. The forum was facilitated by ABA CEO Avin Mark Domnitz, ABA COO Oren Teicher, and Board member Michael Tucker of Books Inc. in San Francisco.

Hut Landon, executive director of NCIBA, told BTW that the Spring Gathering "went well. I was very pleased with how we were able to build workshop sessions off of two educational sessions offered at the Winter Institute on 'How to Be the Story: Developing and Implementing a Public Relations Plan' and the other on 'Getting the Most Out of Your Staff.'"

"I thought it was a splendid day," said Ken White of SFSU Bookstore. "It was well attended, and there were a lot of faces I had never seen before."

Landon noted that the two roundtable discussions based on the Winter Institute offerings were presented to take these very well received educational programs to the next step -- to allow attendees to really delve into specifics. For instance, he said, the discussion based on the Winter Institute staffing seminar "talked about the importance of good communication with your staff and why -- so the roundtable discussed the 'how.' If you have 20 employees with varying schedules ... how do you get everybody together for staff meeting?"

Judy Wheeler of Towne Center Books in Pleasanton, California, said "Getting the Most Out of Your Staff" was an "informative program" and the format provided a good opportunity to get new ideas from colleagues.

The roundtable on "How to Be the Story: Developing and Implementing a Public Relations Plan" was moderated by Stacey Lewis of City Lights Publishing. "People got a lot out of it, and they were able to talk specifics," Landon said.

At the Spring Gathering, NCIBA also presented "Independent Business Alliances and Shop Local Campaigns," a panel discussion featuring a report on the just-completed economic study of San Francisco retail that demonstrates the value of locally owned businesses to the city's economy. Panelists included Landon (representing the San Francisco Locally Owned Merchants Alliance), Steve Costa of Point Reyes Books, and Ann Bartz of the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies.

Directly after lunch, ABA's Domnitz and SFSU Bookstore's White presented "Participating in the Digital Revolution." Domnitz discussed the digitization of content, social networking, open source, and print-on-demand, and how they affect independent booksellers today, as well as their ramifications for the future. White followed up with a hands-on discussion of how booksellers are using the technology, Landon reported.

"The digital session was very interesting," said Cindy Meister of Booksmart in Morgan Hill, California. "There was good information.... It showed me that there is a need for a bookstore to offer more than books. You have to provide consumers with a 'third place.'"

In the afternoon, Domnitz, Teicher, and Tucker led the ABA Bookseller Forum & Strategic Planning Session. Here, booksellers had the opportunity to voice concerns and to offer input on the direction of the association as it formulates its next five-year Strategic Plan.

One of the topics at the forum was Hotel ABA's Brooklyn location, according to SFSU's White. "I think some people were not sure what to think about Brooklyn, but people felt a lot better about it after talking with Oren and Avin." Another topic was e-fairness, he said. "Oren noted that we [Northern California] are leading the fight for e-fairness .... [He] encouraged us to keep up the pressure and the fight. It was great to be recognized for that and to know that ABA is supporting us."

Booksmart's Meister noted, "We talked about, going forward, the definition of ABA's core customer." There was also discussion about the upcoming BookExpo America, "mostly logistics -- which airport to fly into and to make sure to use the subway," said Meister.

Both Teicher and Domnitz stressed to attendees that hotel registrants who are flying in for this year's show will have a much easier trip from the airport to Brooklyn if they arrive at either John F. Kennedy International Airport or LaGuardia Airport, both in Queens, New York. Booksellers using New Jersey's Newark Airport, they said, will have a more time-consuming and expensive trip

The Spring Gathering concluded with an NCIBA annual tradition, a wine-and-cheese reception.

Overall, "I thought it was a good day," said Towne Center's Wheeler. "I came away with good ideas. Advertising agencies say you have to say something seven times to get people to remember it, so it's always good to have this reinforcement."

Said Meister, "It was a great day in a nice setting." --David Grogan