Laura Ayrey Burnett has stepped down as executive director of the Mountains & Plains Independent Booksellers Association, effective immediately.

The Board of Directors has initiated a national search for Burnett's replacement. As the board looks for Burnett's successor, Kathy Keel, the association’s longtime project manager, who is based in Fort Collins, Colo., will step into the role of running the organization. Keel will be assisted by Marnie O’Connor, its associate project manager.

Burnett, who is based in Park City, Utah, has served as the regional booksellers association’s executive director since 2010, after the previous executive director, Lisa Knudsen, stepped down. Burnett told PW that she tendered her resignation two weeks ago and has since strategized with MPIBA's nine-member board on an exit strategy.

"I travel a lot for this job," Burnett said. "I have four little kids, including a baby. Whenever I leave them, it's so hard on the family. I need to be a mom for awhile. Not being part of the industry, that's the hardest, but I hope to come back in some capacity."

MPIBA board president Anne Holman, of the King’s English Bookstore in Salt Lake City, told PW that she sympathizes with Burnett's position. She explained that the board "is hoping [the next executive] director will spend a lot of time traveling around the region." She went on: "Our numbers were on the decline for a number of years, but have been on the rise for the past two years. We're headed in the right direction and we're looking for someone to keep that momentum going." Holman said that the board hopes to hire a new executive director by the end of this calendar year.

Mountains & Plains was founded in 1975 and has 125 bookstore members hailing from 13 states in the west and southwest regions of the U.S.