Baker & Taylor Return to Full Service for Academic Libraries

Library distributor Baker & Taylor announced on October 28 that it would be returning to the academic market as a full-service vendor.

Baker & Taylor logoLibrary distributor Baker & Taylor announced on October 28 that it would be returning to the academic market as a full-service vendor.

Baker & Taylor served the academic library space for many years, but left the field under previous ownership. Since its acquisition by the Follett Corporation in 2016, the company has complemented its public library service with reach into the K-12 library space through Follett School Solutions, and is now moving into the academic sphere as well.

Follett has maintained a presence on college and university campuses through its Follett Higher Education Group since 2000, owning and/or operating about 1,100 campus bookstores, where it provides physical and digital content and student services. Aligning with its parent company’s focus was a logical choice for Baker & Taylor.

“It was a natural synergy,” said Baker & Taylor Executive VP and General Manager Amandeep Kochar. “Follett Higher Education group solves campus solutions, so why not harness that power and go back into the academic library world?”

From the outset, Baker & Taylor chose to focus on areas that drive student and community outcomes. “We decided that we don't want to be just another player that provides content services, so our view for our re-entry is services-first,” Kochar told LJ. “We're bringing in services that can add a lot of efficiency and give the library a chance to excel in operations as well.”



Those services are designed around print and digital content needs. In addition to the Axis 360 ebook platform and Title Source 360 collection development system, Baker & Taylor has added several new items.

The company’s experience with the materials supply chain helped inspire the Sustainable Shelves Program, which helps libraries responsibly remove weeded or unwanted print books from their collections. Through the program, libraries can replace physical books that aren’t circulating with credit for new materials. These can include digital content—Baker & Taylor’s collections comprise some 2.2 million ebooks and audiobooks—and services. Baker & Taylor, in turn, will either sell the weeded materials at a discount to secondhand book marketplaces or, as a last resort, responsibly recycle them. The program was developed in alignment with both the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) and American Library Association goals on sustainability.

In addition to reflecting the needs of many academic libraries in the face of campus shutdowns due to COVID-19, noted Kochar, the Sustainable Shelves Program is “in line with the physical to digital move, and also librarians who [may be] struggling with their budget—give them that extra back-pocket money that they can use for a popular collection, or a collection on anxiety.” Baker & Taylor has created a new set of e-collections on the topic of social-emotional learning, anxiety, mental illness, and depression, addressing the fact that college students are currently experiencing extremely high stress levels.

Academic librarians using Sustainable Shelves can log on to Baker & Taylor’s portal, upload a list of books they plan to discard, and immediately get back an estimate of its value. They can order boxes and labels on the site as well, and specify credit or cash. “You can start ordering the same day” and push out notifications to library users, explained Kochar.

That way, he added, when students eventually do return to campus, libraries that have deaccessioned older and non-circulating materials will have freed up shelf space and funds for new items to meet current needs. “You've weeded, gotten credit for it, created a funding source, and utilized it,” Kochar told LJ. “Win-win.” In the four months that Sustainable Shelves has been rolled out, he noted, hundreds of library systems have signed on—without the benefit of the marketing Baker & Taylor usually conducts through trade shows and conferences.

Baker & Taylor’s academic library suite of services will also feature BTCat, a new library cataloging utility that increases efficiency through a robust record database, editor, and authority control; a partnership with the digital periodical distribution company PressReader; Customized Library Services technical service solutions; Baker & Taylor's audio video services; and its book leasing program. The company’s partnership with Sourcebooks on its Virtual Book Clubs will extend into the academic market as well, providing access to popular titles and real-time interaction.

The company’s past experience in academic libraries will be a selling point as well. “There's a lot of excitement about our re-entry into the academic market,” said Baker & Taylor Marketing Director Jessica Bitterman. “Lots of librarians who worked with us previously are coming back.”

Next steps include the creation of an academic library customer advisory council, said Kochar, which will help Baker & Taylor reach out to customers and advise the company on next steps in the academic market. That outside point of view will be critical, he noted. “While we have tons of experience, I also know that the world has completely been upended in the last six months, so I want real-time market advice.”

“Our goal is to make sure that Baker & Taylor stays relevant,” Kochar told LJ. “Our job is not simply to provide resources, [but] to partner with libraries and make sure those resources are consumed to drive student outcomes. Whether it be data, software, or content, we want to be the partner that allows librarians to achieve outcomes they can be proud of.”

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Lisa Peet

Lisa Peet is News Editor for Library Journal.

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Dawn Lloyd

I am very excited that B&T is getting back into the academic book business; it will be a huge relief not to purchase from Amazon!

Posted : Nov 19, 2020 08:52



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