The ILAB International Mentoring Programme gives experienced booksellers the opportunity to lend a hand in the early days of a bookseller’s career when help is likely most needed.
There is nothing new about this: throughout the history of the book trade booksellers have helped each other. But as large bookselling firms grow fewer, apprenticeships are on the wane. By formally offering a mentoring programme ILAB hopes that newer booksellers who might not know how, or whom, to approach for advice will find colleagues willing to continue this tradition.
The ILAB mentoring programme is designed for booksellers who are about to begin, or have already begun trading. Recent graduates of the Colorado and York Antiquarian Book Seminars are prime examples of booksellers the programme is intended to help, but it is available to any recently-established business, or indeed to any bookseller who feels some outside advice might be helpful.
The chronological age of the applicant is irrelevant, as is geographical location. Meetings can be in-person, by telephone or Skype, or in any combination.
Applicants may request a particular mentor from our list, ask for advice about choosing a mentor, or enquire of the ILAB co-ordinators whether a bookseller they know might consider becoming an ILAB mentor. There is also no reason why they could not directly ask an established member of an ILAB-affiliated association whom they already know to become their mentor. The framework of the ILAB mentoring programme provides definitions for mentoring relationships which could otherwise seem either too limited and vague, or too open-ended and demanding.
“We can now envisage such situations as a Dutch mentor supporting a young American bookseller, an American mentor helping a young Russian bookseller or an Australian mentor chatting regularly with their mentee in Malaysia. It is also just as likely that the mentor and mentee might be within the same country or city – there are far fewer limitations than there have ever been.
Communication between dealers across the world now is easy and inexpensive. This has created an opportunity for our trade to work together helping less experienced booksellers where ever they may be located to develop their businesses and become better, more confident and effective members of our trade within a much shorter time than they might otherwise be able to without a mentor.” Sally Burdon, ILAB President
How to find a mentor and how to apply
Please request a listing of mentors who are prepared to help a new or young bookseller from the ILAB Secretariat.
If you express an interest in the Mentoring Programme, the ILAB Secretariat will also provide prospective mentees with a list of frequently asked questions and an application form.
Successful applicants will be put in touch with a prospective mentor, who will work with the mentee to arrange an initial meeting, possibly at a book fair or some other mutually convenient place, or by telephone or video call. If the two booksellers feel they are a good match – and they can report on this confidentially to ILAB if they so choose – the mentor/mentee relationship will be formally established. Once the relationship has been established, the recommended contact is for the two booksellers to speak for a minimum of one hour each month over the course of a year, but exactly how it evolves in practice will be up to those involved. ILAB co-ordinators are always available for confidential discussion and to help resolve any misunderstandings.
All of the mentors involved in the ILAB International Mentor Program are drawn from ILAB ranks and are acting in a voluntary capacity. The mentees will not be required to make any payment for mentoring and will not be named on the ILAB site, unless of course they would like to be.
Do you know someone who might benefit from having a mentor?
Please tell them about this programme and invite them to take part. We believe that the ILAB International Mentor Programme is one of the ways to secure a positive future for our trade.
Testimonial from bookseller Milly Hughes, participant of the ILAB Mentoring Programme (Nov. 2017):
I started trading in June 2016. Having been absent from the book trade for a few years I was heartened to see the changes that have occurred in the mean time. Changes that now make it easier for people to start their careers in antiquarian books, as well as the support now available to new dealers, such as the ILAB mentorship programme.
I expressed my interest to take part in May 2017 and it was not long before I was put in touch with Tom Lintern-Mole from Antiquates. His help and support have been invaluable to me. It was at Tom’s suggestion that I applied for the PBFA scholarship and subsequently attended the York Antiquarian Book Seminar. I have also recently become a member of the PBFA and will be manning my first book fair stand in 2018. In due course I plan to apply to join the ABA.
This may feel like an obvious progression to people well established in the trade, but back in May it felt unattainable to me. Not only has the ILAB mentorship programme been very informative, as Tom has generously shared his time with me and answered all my many questions, it has also given me a confidence in my own abilities and sense of place within the trade that was somewhat lacking before.
US - based bookseller Patrick Olson worked for two years with US bookseller Stuart Bennett and sent the following feedback to ILAB, encouraging others to join the programme (June 2020):
"Going into business for myself has been one of the most rewarding, exciting, and terrifying things I've ever done. The book trade has been overwhelmingly supportive as a whole. Countless booksellers have offered to lend their time and expertise, and to answer any questions I might have. Not wishing to impose on anyone's limited time, however, knowing that I had a designated mentor available to answer any questions was a tremendous comfort. When one works alone and is unsure of the path forward, the encouragement and validation of a veteran bookseller is of inestimable value -- in challenging times, the difference between hope and despair. Beyond simple encouragement, Stuart provided numerous practical, profitable tips -- some of which have spared me much wasted time and money. And when I felt content to limit myself to online and catalog sales, his encouragement to try out book fairs exposed me to an audience I had been missing. In short, I cannot overstate my enthusiasm for the ILAB Mentoring Program. I'm extremely grateful for the opportunity, and heartened to know that Stuart and I will remain in touch going forward."
For further information, please contact the Mentoring Programme Coordinators via: [email protected]