CABS Report: Mike Brenner, Brenner Books


Mike Brenner headshot“A short discourse on the fundamental benefits of the Colorado Antiquarian Book Seminar for those persons engaged in the commerce and compiling of all printed and other matter that collectively is commonly known as the ‘Book Trade’” or,   “How a Week in Newport in the Rockies Made Me a Better Bookseller”.

Ok, clever titling aside, (and the humor doesn’t get any better I’m afraid), I wanted to take a moment to share what I got out of CABS. Paul Shelly, a new friend and colleague from Edmonton, did a terrific job of detailing what this year’s seminarians experienced this past week; 54 of us by my count which we were told was one of the biggest classes to date. Regrettably, I did not take many photos though this one does sum up Paul’s comment about the spartan digs.

CABS 2016_Brenner1Cinder Block Couture is sure to be the latest craze this season seen on the Home & Garden channel.

Now, as a very fortunate scholarship recipient, I would have been happy to sleep in a tree. But truthfully, I liked it this way. No T.V. or other distractions and the only light to read by was a dull fluorescent in the center of the room making my favorite pastime as pleasant as a migraine. You felt compelled to go out into the parking lot beautiful courtyard to mingle with your fellow seminarians.

In life, we tend to run with the crowd who share our same passions, philosophies, even similar lifestyles and livelihoods. This is only natural. But this past week I was thrust together with an extraordinarily diverse group of men and women from all over North America. Backgrounds as diverse as the titles in a Rulon-Miller catalog. But with just one common thread, our passion for books, we became one tribe, as my new friend and colleague, Annette Tixier from New Mexico, called us during one late night concrete conference. I believe this was the goal of the seminar all along. Putting us together with other folks in the trade to develop friendships and partnerships that will last a lifetime. With this alone I came back enriched, with an excitement and optimism for this thing of ours that will drive me forward to succeed.

It was truly an illuminating experience being amongst all these terrific people, who, like me, never wanted Terry Belanger to stop speaking about Hand Press Period bindings and illustration. Who, like me, never wanted Brian Cassidy to stop teaching us how to be better marketers and business people. Or never wanted Garret Scott to stop giving his detailed insights on research. Or never wanted Katherine Reagan to stop explaining how to work with research libraries. Or like me, wanted Lisa Baskin to keep on opening our eyes to new areas of collecting. Or could have listened for hours and hours to Don Lindgren of Rabelais discuss his specialty of Cooking and Wine books, (of particular interest to this seminarian still in the wine biz).

Or like me, would not stop listening to Rob Rulon-Miller and Lorne Bair even if they were talking about the relative durations of various methods of paint drying. Fortunately, their focus was on such diverse topics as Cataloging, Databases & Websites, Pricing, Photography, Book Fairs, and Archives, to name most but not all topics that were covered.

I detail the curriculum to show anyone who has not attended CABS just how comprehensive the seminar is; just how much information, with immediate practical application, is on offer. I could not recommend it enough.

I did indeed have high expectations for what knowledge and insight I would acquire and certainly they were exceeded. But there were a few things I did not expect.

• I was floored by the very first lecture when Lorne Bair told the group that we were not so much competitors as colleagues. Frankly, being relatively new to the trade and coming from a highly competitive industry, I didn’t see this coming. And from every faculty member I got an identical sense of how important collaboration among booksellers and the nurturing of up-and-comers was to ensuring the vitality and future success of the trade. This set the tone for the week and was very much welcomed.

• Leaving politics at the door, we closed the week with a frank discussion about what we could do as booksellers to ensure our trade is open and welcome for all, regardless of sex or race. We heard heartfelt experiences from women in the group who had been subjected to various degrees of sexism. Though I could not imagine every treating anyone in any other way than with the same respect and tolerance I would want for myself, I can only empathize mentally as I have not had to endure what some of the women have had to. What this session did, however, was create a much more acute awareness of a real issue. A very good life lesson that I did not expect but one that will certainly guide my outlook and actions in the future.

• Antiquarian books and Cowboys do go together; who knew? When they said Chuck Wagon, they meant it.

Monday's Chuck Wagon Picnic

Monday’s Chuck Wagon Picnic

• Lorne Bair has an absolutely amazing singing voice serenading the group with Appalachian Hymns. And we didn’t even need to get him to drink much for him to do it.

• My first time in Colorado Springs and I could not imagine a beautiful setting for the seminar. Although, we were greeted with thunderstorms every day just as we broke for the day and walking back to the inn.

Thunderhead coming in over Pike's Peak. Gorgeous.

Thunderhead coming in over Pike’s Peak. Gorgeous.

• Lastly, as much as I was expecting scholastically, I never expected to have so much fun. I had an absolute blast inside and outside of the classroom and I simply did not want it to end.

CABS Class of 2016

To close, I know I may sound like a commercial for CABS but so be it. A more fulfilling week, I could not imagine. I feel very fortunate that I was accepted into the IOBA which afforded me this wonderful opportunity. It also taught me how important it is for me to do my part to assist our trade group in continuing to provide the resources that all of us benefit from. Hopefully, this article is only the first small step in doing that.

Mike Brenner, Brenner Books

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