Scholarships make such a difference, creating the opportunity for stores to send one or more staff to the SIBA Discovery Show. Thanks to generous sponsors like UNC Press, Binc, Penguin Random House (Pat Conroy Scholarships), and Reba and Dave Williams, SIBA is able to help defray the costs of travel, lodging, meals and other expenses. The following booksellers share how attending #SIBA19 made a difference for them.
"Going to SIBA this year was an experience like Peter Wohlleben's The Hidden Life of Trees. Instead of an interconnected system of roots, there exists the life-giving channels of indie bookstores pulsing around the American South. Southern Indies are diverse variations of the same organic matter. They bring reading and intellectual vibrance to a region of the country that has long been perceived as lacking of, or not even wanting to explore, the world of books outside of the caricatures of complicated Southern identity. I witnessed authors on the verge of tears as they gave their precious books into our capable hands. And, I trust in the team of booksellers present this weekend to carry those direct emotional pitches with them onto the bookfloor. I have been a bookseller since 2015. In 2019 at SIBA, l became a bookseller for life."- Davis Shoulders, Union Ave Books, Knoxville, TN
“Main Street Books is truly indebted to the Williams for an unforgettable and impactful experience. Main Street Books is a 90 minute drive from Spartanburg, close enough that we could reasonably send all 6 staff members to SIBA without incurring crazy travel costs. That said, we closed the store on the two busiest days of the week at the start of serious fourth quarter ramping up - a sizable risk, but one I was willing to take so that my booksellers could truly understand the empowering experience of spending 70 hours among booksellers, authors, and publishers. The scholarship allowed us to reduce that financial risk.
Most of my booksellers have had established careers previously and attending a conference was not a novel experience. However, working in a retail job and attending such an enriching meeting was truly remarkable. Each of our booksellers, including our event coordinator, was able to attend at least three author meals and several were moved to tears (Kevin Wilson!) or felled by laughter (Akilah, Julie, Gilly, Kimberly, and Charlaine!) or empowered to embrace our role as community conversation facilitators (Sharon Robinson and Peggy Wallace Kennedy!).
Having our staff attend education sessions like the "Work on your biz" helped us all see better ways for us to redesign the way we work so that I, as owner/manager, can have more time for strategic planning. Staff also embraced their time on the exhibit floor. They had great conversations with every single vendor that attended. I am pretty sure that a Main Street Books staff member visited every table at least once on Saturday. We've come back with new sidelines to stock, stronger relationships with publishers, and great under-the-radar books to read and share back here in Davidson.
We also had valuable time together to meet as a whole staff and to perform a S.W.O.T analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats). One effect of attending education sessions and meeting/conversing with other booksellers is that each of my booksellers could informally assess our store, getting a sense for what and how we do things in comparison to other stores. This "intangible" outcome has instilled pride of purpose in us! Thank you so much for helping us gather together at SIBA19!” -Adah Fitzgerald, Main Street Books, Davidson, NC
"Recently I read a middle reader book called The Spinner of Dreams and there's a part of a story where the protagonist is told, "Someday you will walk into a room and everyone will have been waiting for you, there will be a spot for you at the table and everyone will be so glad you came." As someone who is slightly too loud and talks way too much, I've always wondered if that day would come for me. At SIBA this year, this quote kept running through my head as I met friends I never knew I had, wept with authors over their beautiful writing, and laughed with others like me who were just trying to bring books to a hurried world. While the entire weekend was very whirlwind, it was the happiest tornado I've ever been able to be swept up into. I learned more about the industry from all angles, from the author's perspective, from the publisher's perspective, and from other booksellers as well. I was so blessed to be chosen for a scholarship to attend and I will always be so grateful." -Katlin Kerrison, Story On the Square, McDonough, GA