Mountains & Plains Independent Booksellers Association executive director Laura Ayrey announced at last week’s trade show, held at Denver’s Renaissance Hotel, that MPIBA is launching a mentorship program for its members this fall. New member stores wanting to participate in the program will be matched with an established bookstore that’s similar to them in terms of inventory and size. The mentor bookseller at each established store will be responsible for making a monthly phone call to the bookseller with whom they’ve been matched. The mentor will also call the new member store before the annual regional trade show to give advice and to schedule a face-to-face meeting at the show.

“We’ve been discussing ways we can help new member stores,” Ayrey told PW, “There’s so much information, it can be overwhelming. We just want to offer them some guidance.” Ayrey explained that the organization is strategizing on new ways in which to help new member stores, because, after a drop in new memberships during the recession, the number of new members has “all of a sudden” risen. There were four new members after the 2010 show, and 13 new members after the 2011 show. The total number of MPIBA bookstores currently stands at 142 members.

“I think the program can help a lot; they can meet at the show with the bookseller they’ve been talking to before the show,” Ayrey said. The organization has not yet sent information to its membership about this new initiative; it plans to send out an e-mail that includes a registration form next week. Ten mentors and seven new bookstore members have already signed up to participate.

Megan O’Sullivan, who bought the 19-year-old bookstore, Braun Books, in Cedar City, Utah, four months ago, is one of the seven new MPIBA member stores who’ve signed up to be mentored. O’Sullivan, who has an education background, says she’s “still partnered with the old owner, there’s a lot of things he can’t answer” for her. “Going to MPIBA once a year can really help,” she said, “But I think a mentor will extend the ideas throughout the year.”