The American Booksellers Association announced on September 6 that it would be making a special emergency contribution of $5,000 to the Book Industry Charitable (Binc) Foundation for hurricane relief as well as matching all contributions made to Binc, up to $5,000, between August 31 and September 15.
In that time, Binc received more than $5,000 in donations in support of the organization’s efforts to provide booksellers in the Houston area and on the southeastern coast with relief from Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.
While a number of publishers have also donated to Binc, including HarperCollins, which contributed $5,000; Ingram, which contributed an additional $5,000 on top of a prior gift; and Lion Forge, which contributed $25,000, Binc Executive Director Pamela French said the $5,000 ABA match was reached counting only bookseller contributions.
“The book industry does have the best people, that’s for certain. Folks just started to step up and say, ‘Hey, how can we help?’ We were pretty sure that we could achieve the ABA match without counting the contributions from publishers, and we were right. All the funds that contributed toward the $5,000 ABA match came either directly from bookstores themselves or from bookstore employees,” said French.
Stores that donated funds to Binc for the matching effort include The Clinton Book Shop in Clinton, New Jersey; Bank Square Books in Mystic, Connecticut, Savoy Bookshop & Café in Westerly, Rhode Island; Avid Bookshop in Athens, Georgia; Second Chapter Books in Middleburg, Virginia; and Stories on the Square in Decatur, Georgia.
That aid from Binc, especially access to temporary lodging, food, and clothing, has been sorely needed. Many booksellers affected by Harvey and Irma have reached out to Binc; so far, the organization has processed aid relief for nine families.
“We’re getting at least one request every single day. On Friday, I got three requests from Florida just for immediate needs — food and water — so we sent out American Express gift cards overnight so they could get those immediate needs met. Luckily, in those cases, everybody was safe and they had their own home to go to, but they had no power, so they were buying ice and small amounts of food because everything in their refrigerators was rotting,” French said.
French noted that Binc is fully committed to getting booksellers who contact the organization the help they need, from immediate aid to assisting with expenses not covered by insurance. So far, the organization has been able to handle the substantial volume of requests, in part because of the lessons they learned from assisting booksellers after Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
“Katrina was by far the largest [disaster] that we helped with, and I would say that this is second to Katrina. Because we had that experience, I think we were really well-prepared. We understood everything from the simplest things, like that you need to actually print out the disaster applications and be prepared to take the application over the telephone because those individuals don’t have access to electricity or Internet,” said French. “We ordered gift cards ahead of time because we knew that that’s what we would be sending out.”
Booksellers who have been affected by either storm are encouraged to contact Binc at (866) 733-9064 or email@example.com. Stores that have a LIBRIS business insurance policy can make a claim by calling (888) 694-8585. In addition, many publishers have informed ABA of relief efforts for victims of both hurricanes, which ABA has compiled in a list.
Booksellers from eight stores in Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, and Virginia were unable to make it to this past weekend’s SIBA Discovery Show in New Orleans due to Hurricane Irma, according to Shelf Awareness. Laney Blanchard was one bookseller who, along with her colleagues at Sundog Books in Santa Rosa Beach, Florida, was able to get to the SIBA show, a four-and-a-half-hour drive away. Their store, located in the panhandle of Florida, got very lucky, said Blanchard.
“Even though we were all ready to evacuate, we didn’t have to. We were able to open up when lots of other stores and businesses were closed,” said Blanchard. “Because it’s a resort area, there were a lot of people who came up from South Florida, so it actually helped business, since it would have been a slow weekend anyway.”
Karen Roby, a bookseller at The Writer’s Block Bookstore in Winter Park, Florida, called upon the help of a bookseller friend: she packed her things and evacuated to Page & Palette, in Fairhope, Alabama, driving to the SIBA show from there.
“After I got in touch with Stephanie [Crowe] at Page & Palette, I ended up staying there in Alabama and I got to check in on their store and see how they do events,” said Roby. She and Crowe attended the SIBA show, where they met up with Writer’s Block owner Lauren Zimmerman and fellow bookseller LeAnne Rollins.
Roby said they didn’t even lose power at the store, which closed for three days, but Zimmerman still does not have power at her house. “The store is fine, but it has been challenging to communicate,” Roby said.