MIBA Annual Meeting: 'A Celebration of Resiliency'
Despite having to be held virtually, the Midwest Independent Booksellers Association's annual meeting yesterday was a warm gathering that included laughs and tears and the repeated wish to be able to meet again in person. Executive director Carrie Obry set the mood when she began, "I miss all of your beautiful faces. We should be in a hotel, eating breakfast potatoes and drinking coffee together. It's a big bummer that we aren't, but all of that has only given us an opportunity to show how creative and resilient and close knit and friendly our industry is."
MIBA had "as telling a year as you have had," Obry said. The beginning was auspicious, with the hiring of Kate Scott as MIBA's program specialist. "It was a fabulous decision," Obry said. "She's been doing such an amazing job."
Then came the pandemic. With the Great Lakes Independent Booksellers Association, MIBA canceled the traditional Heartland Fall Forum and held the virtual Heartland Summer instead, which featured 23 events from June to October that drew 680 attendees, 48 authors and has been viewed online 2,100 times.
MIBA hosted several happy hour chats, and took inventory of all pandemic regulations. It has moved forward with the Roadmap program, but chose to do an online version instead of a printed version. This was delayed slightly by domain problems, but it now has a consumer-facing site that should be available no later than January.
MIBA also expanded its board from seven to nine members in an effort to "enjoy a wider range of viewpoints and prioritize conversations about equity within bookselling," Obry said. The two new members were previously voted in by members and joined the board officially at the meeting: BrocheAroe Fabian of River Dog Book Co., which is now headquartered again in Wisconsin, and Riley Davis of Next Chapter Booksellers, St. Paul, Minn.
Obry noted the heartbreaking loss of "the Uncles"--Uncle Hugo's Science Fiction and Uncle Edgar's Mystery bookstores in Minneapolis, which burned during the protests following the murder of George Floyd by local police. The loss has been especially resonant because owner Don Blyly--"with a few sales reps and booksellers"--founded MIBA in the 1980s. "We wish him ongoing success with his crowdfunding campaign, working with the city, and hopefully finding a way to reopen," Obry said.
MIBA president Kate Rattenborg, owner of Dragonfly Books, Decorah, Iowa, called the evening "a celebration of resiliency" and said that the association's finances are tight, "like everybody's," but MIBA is "going strong." MIBA is "reevaluating what needs to be done," and has income from the Heartland Summer and the holiday catalogue. For next year, it's looking at revising programs to spread out income more evenly during the year.
During 2020, MIBA's membership grew to 155, including 21 new bookstore members, 10 of which are either prospective or new stores. There are another five new stores MIBA has invited to join. In total, about 15 stores opened in the region this year, which Rattenborg called "phenomenal." --John Mutter