What We Learned at Ci7

Pittsburgh, PA June 2019

I love going to industry tradeshows and conferences and Ci7 in Pittsburgh was one of the best (and most intense) I’ve been to yet. On my first day in Pittsburgh, I did the full-day bookstore tour where a busload of booksellers and other industry folks visited five of Pittsburgh’s growing and beloved indies: Mystery Lovers Bookshop, Spark Books, City of Asylum, White Whale Bookstore, and Classic Lines Bookstore. It was awesome to see these bookstores in person (the majority of which are less than four years old) and the growing literary community in Pittsburgh. There was another tour which was also offered where people visited indie bookshops in the north side of the city and surrounding suburbs. Opening a bookstore is often both a risk and the realization of a lifelong dream, and it is our core mission at Binc to support these intrepid entrepreneurs and their hard-working employees.

One of the most important Binc-related realizations that I took home from this gathering of booksellers was that even though Binc has been serving US booksellers’ emergency financial needs since 2011, there are still misconceptions about what Binc does, who qualifies for assistance, and what kinds of events Binc can help with.

Booksellers do not have to donate or “belong” to Binc to qualify for assistance—ever.

The first thing I often have to clear up when getting into a discussion with a bookseller who is mostly unfamiliar with Binc (oh you’re from that bookstore charity), is that Binc is not a membership organization. Booksellers do not have to donate or “belong” to Binc to qualify for assistance—ever. Binc is a nonprofit foundation funded and supported by a community of caring and generous donors from across the industry (i.e. authors, publishers, frontline booksellers, bookstore owners, the ABA, and regional associations like NCIBA and NEIBA) and we serve all people working full-time or part-time in a brick and mortar bookstore for over 90-days. We serve frontline booksellers, comic book retailers, owners, managers, buyers, events coordinators, and shift leaders. If you work in a bookstore—Binc is your foundation. There are no membership fees or costs, and there never will be.

Another misconception I often encounter at trade shows or when I’m visiting bookstores is that Binc assistance applies only to the bookstore itself or the bookstore owner. This is also not the case. If a tree falls on your house, and you work in a bookstore year-round, it’s possible that Binc can help. Due to donations from across the industry, Binc is able to help with a vast range of emergency events that effect booksellers’ lives outside of the bookstore where they work. Binc has helped pay for addiction treatment, vital medications, preventing eviction, repairs after a tornado partially destroyed a home, funeral expenses for a loved one, relocation for domestic violence survivors, dealing with bed bugs, and 100s more qualifying events. If you’re not sure if your situation qualifies, and you’re struggling financially after something unexpected happened in your life, call us. We’ll talk you through our simple application process and do our best to get you some relief.

If you’re not sure if your situation qualifies, call us.

Sometimes when I tell people about Binc they ask, “So what’s the catch? Do I have to pay the money back? Do you tell everyone I needed assistance?” The honest answer is that there is no catch. You never have to pay the money back (the assistance is in the form of grants, not loans), and our financial assistance programs are 100% confidential and judgment-free. We take your situation as it is and do our best to work with you and help you find a way out of it so you can get back to normal as quickly as possible.

At Binc we believe in the power of the indie bookstore in a community and the value of the people who work in that bookstore who every day make the store what it is. Binc is here for the children’s book buyer who is selecting the books on the shelves to reflect and at times challenge their community, the events coordinator who is always staying late and working weekends and moving that shelf out of the way for the 100th time, the aspiring writer and frontline bookseller who is trying to make her bookseller’s hourly wage work in New York City, for the new bookstore owner with a young family who has big dreams about building something great and valued for their community. Binc is here for each of them in times of great need. I always tell people, I wish that nobody ever needed Binc, but I also know that’s not the world we live in. At least it’s good to know if you need a little help during an emergency, that Binc will be here to help you find your way through a crisis. Then afterward, you can keep slinging those books and sharing your favorite stories with your customers and doing the incredible work of selling books and connecting readers with the stories they so urgently need to hear.

Kate Weiss was a frontline bookseller and book buyer for over ten years and is currently the communication and marketing coordinator at the Book Industry Charitable Foundation.

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