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Message from Hervé Valentin, President of SLAM: Paris Book Fair 2020 & COVID19

This text was first published in the SLAM Members Gazette, edition 76 in French language.
Publié le 26 Mars 2020
Paris 2020 Covid 19

On March 6th, we were joking among booksellers in New York.
"Grand Palais, not Grand Palais?". Optimists, many of us thought candidly - me... was the first, I confess - that there was still a chance.

A few days later, we had to face the facts. Cancellation was on the horizon, and the health situation was getting much worse in Europe. Worse, it was even there, invisible, in New York, where several booksellers were hit, affected during the fair.
It was obvious that the Salon du Livre Rare et de l'Objet d'Art would not be able to be held on the scheduled dates (23-25 April) and, starting on 10 March, our first action was about doing everything possible to postpone it, rather than cancel it.

The NMR-Grand Palais gave us the opportunity to do so, with only one date available at the calendar for the start of the new school year, September 4 to 6. Necessary condition before any further action: the exhibitors' opinion. On 13 March, we started a consultation process immediately to all registered exhibitors at the Grand Palais 2020. 182 emails were sent, with a simple question: "Do you support a postponement of the event to the proposed date?"
The result of this consultation was very clear: nearly 90% of exhibitors responded to the question in favor of attending in September of this year. We thank you for for that massive commitment, and for all the messages of support received. We are well aware of the effort required and will do everything possible to organize the best possible event. We are hopeful that this September will mark a new beginning and will finally allow everyone to erase, or at least to attenuate, the previous months that will be, no doubt, difficult.

With this decision confirmed, and with your consent, we still had to find out the position of our partner, the SOA, which had carried out the same consultation. It was negative.
SOA then told us that, under these conditions, it was withdrawing from the 2020 salon which was a real blow for us. Finding a new partner proved impossible.

We then started a discussion with the NMR-Grand Palais for the conditions of a postponement in which SLAM would be the only tenant in the Grand Palais and which would have entailed some major financial obligations - which SLAM could have not carried alone. The result was positive.

The NMR has agreed to an amendment of our occupancy agreement, reducing our use of the Grand Palais to the level of our usual space occupation, at no extra cost. We thank them again today for this decision, which allows us to continue the partnership that began nearly fifteen years ago and to close the cycle at the Grand Palais, before the closure of the site at end of the year. This allows us to offer you one more year of a fair,  a unique showcase for our profession.

In the situation that all of our members are in today, who must for obvious reasons face a slowdown in activity, SLAM and its Board of Directors, to the extent that it can, undertakes as of now to provide
any legal and practical information that may be useful. This is our mission, and the one we owe to our members. The Grand Palais is a very important matter for our association, but we must not forget that SLAM consists of a total of 225 members which make up the entire association. 

You will now find several data sheets on the first directives and government provisions. It goes without saying that this is an evolving situation: we will try to make data available in digital form which we consider sufficiently useful.

However, I cannot overemphasize the need for you to consult daily with the official websites and, for those who have an efficient accounting firm, of course rely particularly on their advice.

Finally, I would like to assure you that after having set up, for our team the tools that are necessary to work remotely, and that we continue to be present for you. This is an opportunity for me to underscore the ongoing commitment of the office, and particularly the one without whom all of the foregoing would have taken place, Anne-Marie Coulon.

SLAM's activity has not slowed down, quite the opposite!
Please do not hesitate to contact us. Mail, sms, whatsapp, messenger, Instagram, Facebook: anything goes, except the Post Office!

The situation is unprecedented, extraordinary, and dangerous for the entire economy and for our businesses and activities. However, it seems to me that we have, by our experience, by our passions for books, by the privileged relationships based on the trust and sometimes friendship that binds us to our clients, a chance. Let's cultivate it, we actually have more time; our clients probably do too.

Our unique profession has long since ceased to be dependent on the Internet, or on the digital communications. It's another chance in the situation current, compared to other sectors. Let's grow it too. We will launch these days, on the fair website, a major operation, a Virtual Grand Palais where you and our customers can browse through the pages of the virtual catalogue, where you can buy from your living room. And your catalogues. In Absentia.

It will be a very practical opportunity to keep the link with our collectors alive, collectors, and lovers of books and autographs. They now have time for reading, and why not, again, searching for original books and documents.

They will take that time if we offer it to them.

Let's use this opportunity! 

Hervé Valentin

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