After a long stretch of virtual programing, one thing that became clear during yesterday’s Great Lakes Independent Booksellers Association’s annual meeting is that everybody is looking forward to once again meeting in person at upcoming conferences.

To that end, American Booksellers Association CEO Allison Hill said the ABA is “optimistic” that Winter Institute will take place in Cincinnati February 13-16 as scheduled. She noted that ABA wants to use Winter Institute as an opportunity to gather together and “talk about strategy and future casting,” with keynote speakers – futurist Jane McGonigal, author of Imaginable: How to See the Future Coming and Feel Ready for Anything, and Harvard professor Rebecca Henderson, author of Reimagining Capitalism in a World on Fire – exemplifying this emphasis.

“We’re hoping that as everyone comes up from an extended, head-down kind of thing, that we come into 2022 with a renewed sense of energy and forward movement and that some of those [Winter Institute] programs will help all of us move forward,” she said. The ABA will also host a Snow Days virtual conference on March 8-9, “for those who want to talk virtually” or cannot make it to Cincinnati.

Eric Obenauf, publisher of Two Dollar Radio, which also operates a bookstore/cafe in Columbus, Ohio, spoke to the GLIBA members about Winter Institute as well, but with a focus on networking and celebration. Obenauf invited Winter Institute attendees to take a side trip to Columbus for a day of touring Columbus’s five indies on February 12. The five indies are planning special events to welcome their professional colleagues, including appearances by Columbus-area authors like Saeed Jones, Hanif Abdurraqib, Maggie Smith, and others .GLIBA intends to sponsor bookseller buses from Cincinnati to Columbus for the day.

Following Obenauf’s invitation, GLIBA executive director Larry Law addressed booksellers, noting, “For many stores, this year has been more difficult than last year. We’re still one foot in the pandemic and one foot out of the pandemic.” Law said the changes caused by lockdowns–the high volume of online sales, managing curbside pickup, limiting numbers of staff and customers in-store, and completely re-opening businesses–combined to make 2021 a challenging year.

Despite this, Law reported, in terms of membership, the organization had a “ridiculously good year this year” and that the association is in solid financial condition. Law noted that in 2019-2020, GLIBA added 11 new bookstore members to its rolls: in contrast, in 2020-2021, GLIBA added 51 new bookstore members, “which is pretty astounding,” Law noted. There are now 205 GLIBA member stores, not including multiple locations, and “that’s the highest it’s been in many years.”

GLIBA’s 2022 spring forum will take place in Kalamazoo, Mich. in April. “We’ve been planning this for two years, so we’re very excited to get there,” he said, “We’re still figuring out the logistics.”

Explaining that 2022 marks the 10th anniversary of GLIBA and the Midwest Booksellers Association holding a joint trade show, Law urged booksellers to attend Heartland Fall Forum in 2022, when it will be held in St Louis, Oct. 12-14.

“Please, please join us,” Law said, “We’re already talking about some great ways we can celebrate next year. I think no matter what the show looks like, we’re going to be in person. So please, look forward to that.”

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