guest posts – Colorado Book Seminar feedback

I’m a bit overwhelmed at the thought of coherently summing up the experience of this year’s Annual Colorado Antiquarian Book Seminar, which I was lucky enough to attend. So much is packed into the week. So I’m just going to kind of list my thoughts in the order they occur to me –

– The most common question I’ve gotten from other booksellers is “Was it worth it?” To which the simple answer is, you better &%$#@(&%-ing believe it was. Every penny, every hour, every bit of lost sleep was worth it.

– The seminar struck a difficult balance between being useful for the newbie while not boring the more experienced sellers. They managed, in my opinion, to engage both the more advanced attendees as well as those just beginning. This is, of course, a testament to the faculty.

– Was a suprisingly diverse group. Many attendees were literally just starting out. Others had been working at it for year. A few open shops. I was also interested to see that there were a fair number of librarians and pure collectors in attendance. I was also struck by the number of (like me) younger students. Still a minority (about ten of about fifty), but as someone who’s used to usually being the youngest person in a group of booksellers, a nice change. I think part of the liveliness of the discussions stemmed from what was a reasonably eclectic group.

– In a strange strictly-speaking kind of way, the information given during the seminars was in some ways the least of the entire experience. Which is not to say the information wasn’t invaluable, or that this alone wasn’t worth the price of admission all by itself. It was. But for me, two other elements are what really made the seminars outstanding…

– The first was how what the faculty taught told you at least as much about what you DIDN’T know as what you did, and in this way sketched out the boundaries of your expertise while simultaneously inspiring (at least me) to continue to learn more.

– And second, the other amazing part of the week were the other attendees. I think I learned more from the other “seminarians” than anyone else. In addition, it was wonderful to finally be able to talk with other people who know what you’re talking about. We all basically work alone in a business that most people don’t understand.
What a relief to talk books and not have to explain what you’re talking about. Haven’t laughed so hard as I did last week in a LONG time. In addition, the other students are, of course, the people who will be your colleagues for the foreseeable future. Good people to know.

– Highlights? Faculty member Terry Belanger. Erudite, engaging, a bit eccentric and with the driest sense of humor I think I’ve ever encountered, he made what were often fairly dull topics (bibliography, collation, etc) fascinating.

– Also: good bookscouting. Paid for my plane ticket with a few finds from our various field trips. Huzza!

In short, one of the best week’s of my life. Can’t recommend it too highly. Got to meet a few Bibliophile List members, including Chris Volk – who is just as charming and generous in person as she is on the Internet. (Also go to sit next to the mysterious Shep Iams all week, who – though more quiet than Chris – is equally charming and generous).

Beg, borrow, or steal but go go go. You won’t regret it. Happy to answer other questions for anyone who’s interested.

I can echo Brian’s message about the Book Seminar esp about coherently summing it up. The faculty were tuned in, agile, and the tone was collegial all ’round. The seminarians were to a person . . . interesting, also generous, diverse, enthusiastic, and engaged.

I am currently implementing many of the practical applications and I am now directed to the areas where I know I need to ‘learn’ more. And this along with a notebook chocked full of real, useable information, contacts, etc.

I have attended scores of conferences over the years in several fields, and this coursework was as well organized, classy, attentive to detail and interesting. All of the faculty were ‘characters’ and not shy about straight out talk or tough questions or saying “I don’t know”.

The scholarship I received from ABAA came at a good juncture in my life, and it was the first financial help I have ever received for education, and my gratitude cannot be properly expressed. I cried when I thanked Rob Rulon-Miller because I have done it the hard way for the most part. They want to help booksellers.

It was not ‘just another bunch of book geeks’….and also a nice break to speak with others who share our vocation and biblio-interests.

So I am off to install Indicia postage hardware tonight, thanks to Chris Volk’s grand suggestion. Her perspectives on selling were spot on for me and along with the other faculty showed what long term effort can reap in terms of following your bliss.

I cannot recommend the seminar strongly enough, but it was not for sissies as far as the hours. Your money’s worth??? YOU BET!!

MaryLou – Austin Fine Books
Truckee, California
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