Hundreds of exhibit booths filled with the latest book titles and publishers' catalogs; dozens of bestselling authors making speeches and signing autographs; programs on topics ranging from "Finding Books on the Internet" to "Reaching Generation X." Just about the only book-related item that wasn't in abundance at BookExpo America, held May 30-June 1 in Chicago, was librarians.
The book-industry trade show has always been aimed primarily at book-sellers -- prior to 1997 it was known as the American Booksellers Association convention and trade exhibit (it's now cosponsored by ABA and the Association of American Publishers). The 521 librarians who registered (up slightly from last year's 486) were largely lost among the total attendance of 25,672.
About a dozen major trade publishers who exhibited reported talking to no librarians at all. However, academic publishers were a somewhat different story. Oxford University Press and Johns Hopkins University Press, which both have major books on New York coming out soon, reported heavy interest from librarians from that state. And small-press publishers seemed to appreciate librarians' presence: "Librarians are great," raved Katherine Myers, publicity director of Storey Books. "They are the most service-oriented people in the world. They should give courses in customer service."
The librarians who did attend Bookexpo contrasted it to ALA Conferences. "It's about books, not technology," observed Bessie Makris of the Allen County Public Library in Ft. Wayne, Indiana. She added that it was a good opportunity to meet representatives from small and alternative presses that don't attend ALA. Her colleague Susan Buschur added that it was a chance to meet "more authors and more foreign publishers."
Susan Hill of the Brigham City (Utah) Public Library liked "the amount of publishers in one place -- and they give away free books." Last year Hill shipped $10,000 worth of giveaways back to her library.
Angie Stuckley, collection development librarian at DeKalb County (Ga.) Public Library, attended BookExpo to pick up catalogs and look at new titles because "Georgia is in the enviable position of having to buy a huge amount of books by the end of the fiscal year," which is fast approaching. She bought a copy of Charlton Heston's new book, Charlton Heston's Hollywood, and was pleased that GT Publishing provided her with a Polaroid of the actor signing a poster for her. …