Training the Trainers
Michael Scott Archer -- 1/29/01
Donna Paz gets set to run program to prepare booksellers
Two years ago, the ABA dropped its booksellers training program, feeling that such teaching would be best done locally. The executive directors of the various regional booksellers associations responded by initiating a program to train candidates from each region, who would in turn teach other booksellers in their respective regions how to run a successful business. Soon
"We'd been doing bookselling training for eight years," said Paz, who established her business in 1992. "I offered myself as a workshop coordinator and facilitator for each of the regional associations--and I've been to them all. So they knew what we did and that our heart was in the right place."
The regional executive directors compiled a list of the essential skills needed to run a successful bookstore and then categorized them by level--frontline staff, supervisory staff, managers and owners. Then Paz and her co-workers put together methods to teach trainers how to convey this information. Paz & Associates came up with four comprehensive outlines:
Each outline addresses competencies, skills to develop and training methods.
"We didn't want to do a program on inventory management and buying, and a program on bookstore design, and all that straight-and-narrow stuff," Paz told PW. "We decided to do a little bit of everything, and show how the operation should be integrated and in alignment, so efforts that require limited resources get the biggest bang for the buck."
Six regional associations--GLBA, the New England Booksellers Association, the Southeast Booksellers Association, the Upper Midwest Booksellers Association, the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association and the Mountains & Plains Booksellers Association--are using the program. The instructors for the national training team are currently being selected; each is expected to make a two-year commitment. The four-day training program will take place in Nashville this March.
"By March 1, all of the regions will have their videos and printed materials and the trainers will be selected and ready to train. Those trainers will be ready to deliver the program to their regions this spring," said Paz.
Paz said that the response has been overwhelming supportive. Some of the best booksellers in the country are surfacing as trainers because there is "a collegial attitude among the independents because they want one another to succeed." The booksellers already signed up to become trainers include: Chuck Robinson, Village Books, Bellingham, Wash.; Kathi Kirby, Powell's Books, Portland, Ore.; Heather Duncan, Tattered Cover, Denver, Colo.; Fran Keilty, Atticus Bookstore, Middletown, Conn.; Carole Horne, Harvard Bookstore, Cambridge, Mass.; Bud Gaston, Butterfly Books, De Pere, Wisc., and PW's own past Bookseller of the Year, Dana Brigham of Brookline Booksmith in Brookline, Mass. So far, the only non-bookseller to sign up as a trainer is Dean Jones, a PNBA trainer from the distributor Partners West. Paz said that the regional associations will offer some, if not all, of the programs at least once for their memberships, and will revisit the programs periodically as new bookstores join and different people are promoted within existing bookstores.
"The core curriculum is being developed and formatted like a training library and the regionals will be able to add on in the future," Paz said. "We're already thinking of adding a fifth module. From our standpoint, as long as they want to develop programs, we'll be here to support that effort, because that is our mission--to help build skills within independent bookstores."
Opening a Bookstore
For the past two years, Paz & Associates has also done workshops for people who are thinking about opening their own bookstores. Aimed at those who have other careers, the programs started small, with 12 to 15 people.
"We get calls all the time now from people who want help deciding whether making that leap into owning a bookstore is really crazy," said Paz. "These people know about Barnes & Noble and they know about Amazon.com, not like current owners who were in business before all these changes took place. They know about the environment. And we're here to ask, 'Okay, if you're going to do this, how can you be special?'"
Paz offers two programs--an intensive two-day session at the annual BEA meeting and a more thorough five-day session, which addresses things as specific as floor layout. Fifty to 60 graduates have emerged, with good results. Some have decided bookselling wasn't for them, which Paz also considers a success, and many have opened stores and "wondered how they could have learned everything without the program," according to Paz.
Paz & Associates has also offered its services to the American Library Association, to help libraries form reading groups and market themselves to become more accessible to the public. Paz & Associates has also created co-op newsletters for independent bookstores. The newsletters, written in "the spirit of a leading independent bookstore," avoid mass market paperbacks that are likely to be heavily promoted by the chains and focus instead on fiction, memoirs, children's books and selected nonfiction. Six general newsletters and three children's newsletters are produced each year. All leave space for each bookstore to personalize with store information, events, photos and staff recommendations. Additionally, Paz & Associates produces greeting cards with literary themes, available to help independents keep in touch with customers throughout the year. A portion of all the greeting card proceeds g s to support literary organizations.
Friar Tuck to Close Saratoga Springs Store
Friar Tuck Ltd. will close its store in the Wilton Mall in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., at the end of this month. According to v-p Daniel Berry, the store was not able to survive the one-two punch of two new chain superstores. Just when it looked like Friar Tuck might rebound from the opening of a Borders in downtown Saratoga Springs last summer, a Barnes & Noble opened at the mall in the fall.
With the closing of the Saratoga Springs Friar Tuck, the eight-year-old regional chain with headquarters in Holyoke, Mass., will be down to nine stores, from a high of 16. Of the remaining stores, three are in upper New York State, four in western Massachusetts, one in southern New Jersey and one in Pennsylvania.
Friar Tuck stores--five 3,000- to 5,000-sq.-ft. Bookshops with large selections of regional titles and four Newsrooms, which stock fewer books but close to 3,000 magazines--experienced soft sales this holiday season. "I wouldn't say we had the best of years," Berry told PW. "Our total sales were down 2%, but by far Saratoga took the hardest hit."
In 2000, Friar Tuck closed and replaced two underperforming stores in Clifton Park, N.Y., and Springfield, Mass. Last fall, it added an e-commerce component through its www.friartuckbookshop.com Web site, which is part of ABA's Book Sense.
Volume 247 Issue 5 01/29/2001