How can we create an ongoing sense of mentorship, especially for newer booksellers to help them create sustainable careers?

Host:  Stephanie Heinz

Participants: Ruth (PRH), Stephanie (Print), Donna (Kepler’s), Kim (Third Place Books), Charlie (Kepler’s), Nasim (Alta Journal)

Notes:

What has been done?

  • Used to have Emerging Leaders and then Indies Forward
  • Emerging Leaders kind of petered out as people moved into management & ownership
  • DEIC was a direct result of Indies Forward’s work — Indies Forward now entering same stage of people who were running it are now taking on management/ownership
  • Potential uptick of people making career changes post-Covid — people could be joining bookselling at various stages of their lives/careers

What can we do to establish/support whatever the next group is?

  • Each generation of bookselling life brings new ideas without knowing how to implement them
  • Groups growing organically offers a sense of ownership, but also creates gaps
  • A lot of booksellers have now spent a large portion of their career in the pandemic–gaining experience where they are but cut off from other forms of mentorship and education from conferences, etc
  • Publisher sponsorship for mentorship activities?

What do people want from mentorship?

  • A space to make connections with other booksellers, get perspectives beyond coworkers
  • Receive guidance and support in developing careers
  • Cross pollination of ideas
  • Giving booksellers permission and tools to advocate for themselves and develop career path plans
    • Pretty consistent and constant turnover with younger staff & burnout with managers/owners
    • Bookselling is often a non-traditional business model, owners might not have in mind more formal structures like annual check-ins
  • Professional development but also making personal connections, building friendships with other booksellers
  • Easier access to follow through, building relationships beyond conferences
  • The barrier for being a bookstore owner has shifted with the advent of more pop-ups and bookshop.org — changes the idea of what makes you a “senior” bookseller, someone who can offer mentorship

What does exist already?

  • FB groups — can become echo chambers/spaces where conversations aren’t able to continue forward
  • Regional Conferences — energy virtually isn’t the same as in person, could become a really magical opportunity in 2022.
  • ABC Group Discord
  • Mentor program at conferences

What is the framework?

  • Do we want an ABA or regional sponsored program?
  • Zoom fatigue is major right now
  • Discord? 
    • The voice & video functions feel less pressure and formality than zoom
    • Create a space where people can make connections before conferences

Small Steps

  • People roll their eyes at ice breakers but also they can be real helpful–bonding over awkward experiences. Sharing things you might not be prompted to share otherwise
  • When in-person activities are an option again, sitting next to someone new

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