New England Independent Booksellers Association
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Peer Review
Booksellers Helping Booksellers

What is a Peer Review?

Simply put, a peer review is booksellers helping booksellers. If you feel like there is room for improvement in your store (and who doesn’t feel this way?), friendly fellow booksellers will visit your store, look at areas that are causing you concern, and offer constructive and confidential feedback.

Why have a Peer Review?

Who hasn’t had the experience of returning from a week away from the store and noticing it with fresh eyes? Imagine several experienced and expert booksellers helping with realistic, concrete ideas that will help your store look and run its best.

What can peer reviewers do for your store? They can look at your budgets (or help you build one), assist in remerchandising the store and pass along their philosophy of what goes where and why. They can point out issues that your current staff might be too close to notice. They can look at your system for returns, marketing, co-op, buying, or staffing and suggest improvements.

Share as much or as little information as you’d like – all peer reviewers sign a Confidentiality Agreement.

Why volunteer to be a Peer Reviewer?

We believe that the more bookstores that thrive, the more new, healthy independent bookstores will bloom.

Aside from helping others, we’ve found that reviewers have learned so much from each store they visit. Reviewers gain new perspectives on their own business, find new ideas by experiencing another store’s environment, and make friends that will help develop and enhance the bookselling community. And it’s fun!

How does a Peer Review work?

When you decide to become a Peer Review Host, NEIBA will send you a questionnaire that asks you to describe your store and talk about any concerns you may have with your store’s visuals and layout, systems and procedures, marketing and events, and financials (as much or as little as you’re comfortable sharing). This form is shared with the visiting reviewers several days ahead of the visit.

NEIBA reimburses the reviewers’ traveling expenses, and the host store provides lunch. Reviewers spend a few hours touring the store and recording their impressions and recommendations on the questionnaire, which NEIBA forwards to the host store.

Raves for Peer Review

"The Peer Review for our two stores was a great process. From putting together the pre-visit material through the site visits to the extremely thorough and smart advise dispensed, we feel energized and confident that the benefits will be significant."
    Dana Brigham, Brookline & Wellesley Booksmith

Peer Review process helped us look at our store with fresh eyes, and the discussions gave us many ideas for improvement. We've implemented many of them already (a staff picks table, integrating some sections to make room for the expansion of others, removing some of those lovely cardboard dumps). And it was really fun to spend time with other booksellers talking about our store."
   Nancy Felton, Broadside Bookshop

"The Peer Review process is one of the most helpful things to happen to us as bookstore owners. We walked into a business that had been here for 20 years and making changes was one of the most difficult tasks. Having outside bookstore professionals come to your store and spend their time making positive suggestions was an overwhelming but highly valuable time. If you have the opportunity to participate in the program, do take advantage of it. It is a wholly positive experience.
   Annie Philbrick, Bank Square Books

Who is participating in Peer Reviews?

Please feel free to talk to any of these stores with questions:

Bank Square Books, Mystic, CT
Bear Pond Books, Montpelier, VT
Booklink Booksellers, Northampton, MA
Broadside Bookshop, Northampton, MA
Brookline Booksmith, Brookline, MA
Food for Thought, Amherst, MA
Harvard Book Store, Cambridge, MA
Island Books, Middletown, RI
Misty Valley Books, Chester, VT
Norwich Bookstore, Norwich, VT
Porter Square Books, Cambridge, MA
Red Fox Books, Glens Falls, NY
River Run Bookstore, Portsmouth, NH
R.J. Julia Booksellers, Madison, CT
Vermont Book Shop, Middlebury, VT

Those interested in becoming a Reviewer or having their store reviewed should contact Steve Fischer at

New England Independent Booksellers Association
1955 Massachusetts Avenue, #2, Cambridge, MA  02140
(617) 547-3642; fax: (617) 547-3759         

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