Earlier this summer, I read the email on our IOBA talklist about the Woodburn Scholarship offered by ABAA for attending the Bookselling Seminar in Colorado Springs, Colorado in August, encouraging those interested to apply. As a “newbie” in the business, I drooled over the seminar advertisement in Firsts Magazine, and bemoaned my lack of funds to attend. So, on a lark, I went to the site and found that submitting a one-page letter was the only application requirement. I sent my letter in before the deadline and waited. When July 4th came and went without word, I assumed I had not been selected. Then I got a call just three weeks before the seminar informing me that I had been awarded one of the scholarships!
With some anxiety, yet eager and curious, I set off from the dormitory on the grounds of the Seminar (much like my first day at college many years ago), to sign in for the Out-Of-Print and Antiquarian Bookselling Seminar. I was immediately reassured by both finding the right place (eventually) and by being greeted warmly by the coordinator, Kathy Lindeman, with whom I had exchanged several emails. Kathy is the Special Events Coordinator for The Colorado College, and provided a smooth running program from start to finish. I am unable to describe adequately how well thought out and executed the logistics of each event were. Suffice to say, we had to do nothing but get there and focus on what we were to learn for the sessions.
Sunday evening, the Seminar was opened with a welcome, brief introductions of the faculty, a keynote speech by Dr. Richard Weatherford, the Chairman of Alibris, and a reception. We started each day at 8:30 a.m., and Monday began with more detailed faculty introductions and brief “How I Became a Bookseller” stories from each member. They came from all different directions and with different interests. Without doubt, the most valuable asset of the Seminar is their faculty of experienced booksellers who love what they do and are giving back to the community of booksellers a bit of what was shared with them as they came up in the trade, mostly through less formal means.
Our faculty of eight (nine, if you include Richard Weatherford who was there and participated all week) were the Director, Michael Ginsberg, a past ABAA president and in the business since 1956 specializing in Americana, American Church History, Government Documents, Western Americana, Serials, and Scholarly Periodicals; Edwin V. Glaser, also a past president of ABAA, and an internationally- known specialist in rare and important books in Science, Technology and Medicine; Joseph Rubinfine, a specialist in buying and selling American Historical Manuscripts who has worked in the field since 1967 and has produced 147 manuscript and 15 book catalogs; Jennifer Larson, who started with Howe’s in San Francisco, then was proprietor of Yerba Buena Books specializing in Californiana and is currently doing business, with her husband, as Jeffrey H. Marks Rare Books, dealing primarily in Modern First Editions; James R. Canary, Book Conservator and Repair Specialist, Head of Special Collections Conservation at the Indiana University Libraries; Lois J. Harvey, who began bookselling in 1972 and specializes in Bookstore Consultation, Open Shop Used Book Store Operation, Book Fairs, and Book Searches; Lois is a charter member and past president of the Rocky Mountain Antiquarian Booksellers Association and has been coordinator of the Rocky Mountain Book Fair since 1995 – she was the only faculty member belonging to IOBA; Mary Francis Ciletti, who is a native of Colorado Springs and who started in the book trade working at a Colorado Springs Bookstore in 1980; she established her own store, Hooked on Books, dealing in new and used books; andJohn D. Townsend, a mail-order specialist of 20th Century authors of Nature, Natural History, Historical and Nautical Fiction, and Americana; he started his own book business in 1992 after spending 25 years in the corporate world of finance and real estate.
In addition to the faculty, helping out were Kathy and Don Stevens of Colorado Springs and our own Sue Gallagher of Denver (yes, the only other IOBA member present). Quite rarified company for such a new kid on the block!
I could go on for pages about the sessions, each member of the faculty, and the opportunities for networking with the established sellers, as well as those who may become the next generation of booksellers, but I don’t have that kind of time nor do I suspect my audience would be fascinated by it. So here is the short version.
The days were absolutely packed with valuable, practical information and real life experiences on topics such as operation of the bricks and mortar store, financing, mail order and internet selling, reference books used in the trade, bibliographic descriptions (understanding them and writing them), making catalogues, pricing, simple repairs, appraisals, technology, auctions, scouting, taxes and accounting, fairs and trade shows, quoting, forgeries, search services, web page design, the history of books and printing, and much, much more.
Many subjects could only be dealt with superficially, but the handouts and references provided were invaluable and something I expect to be able to use for the rest of my career. Though not inexpensive to attend, I came away certain that the knowledge gained, contacts made and reference material supplied were worth one hundredfold the price of admission.
Our week of submergence in Bookselling School ended too soon on Friday afternoon with luncheon, a brief and final note from Ed Glazer on ethics (yes, I did plug IOBA) and the awarding of our certificates. And yes, I am a softy, and was choking back my tears as I said goodbye to each faculty member in the receiving line but at least I held it together ultimately. As each of the 55 students went their own way, I realized I had had one of those extraordinarily rare times that I would probably look back on with satisfaction for the rest of my life. And yet again, yes, I know for sure now that I really do want to be a bookseller.
Julie Wormhoudt Curious Cat Books