While I have a grip on the ins, outs, and constants of the ALA annual conference, I've been to BEA just twice, the first time ten years ago when it was called something else. So forgive me if I infer too much from limited observation. When I was perusing the offerings at ABC's silent auction of picture book art and assorted ancillaria, I noticed that some of the heavy bidding was for art from illustrators whose place in the bookstore landscape is more prominent than their position in libraryland. Jon Muth was the big-bidee I noticed; others would include Janell Cannon or even Eric Carle. A couple of years ago I was at dinner with Alison Morris of the Wellesley Booksmith, and she was all excited about a new book by someone I had not heard of. (I had to call Alison for the name of the artist: Shaun Tan.) When selecting books for review here at the Horn Book, Martha or I will sometimes say, "that looks like a bookstore book," if not exactly a disparagement then pretty close. (But not as close as "that's the kind of thing you find in a bookstore next to the cash register," an increasingly frequent observation, spoken in horrified Bostonian tones.)
I'm guessing that the greatest divide between bookstores and libraries is found in their picture book and nonfiction purchases, and that pretty much the same fiction is found in both venues. Even from library eyes, the differences are not characterized as us=quality, them=dreck, but I wonder if trying to pin the differences down might be helpful for both parties.
But now I'm off to write a picture book biography of my childhood heroine, Fraulein Maria. I'm going to call it Grandma Trapp and make a million.