Follett Corporation, one of the largest companies providing products and services to libraries and educational institutions, has made new appointments in key executive positions. These changes apply to senior executive positions within the context of ongoing top-level leadership with Patrick Connolly as President and Chief Executive Officer and Todd Litzsinger as the chair of the board of directors.
Clay Wahl, previous President of Follett Higher Education has been promoted to Chief Operating Officer of Follett Corporation. He has led Follett Higher Education Group as President since June 2016. Wahl joined Follett in December 2013, following a decade of executive experience for Sears and Kmart.
Other changes in the top leadership team for Follett Corporation include the following:
- Britten Follett, Executive Vice President, with general responsibility for Follett School Solutions
- Amandeep (Aman) Kochar, Executive Vice President of Baker & Taylor
- Roe J. McFarlane, President of Follett Higher Education Group
Leadership of the Public Library Division: Baker & Taylor
In the company's Public Library division, Aman Kochar has been appointed as an Executive Vice President of Baker & Taylor. Kochar has advanced through a series of roles with increasing responsibilities since Baker & Taylor was acquired by Follett in April 2016. He initially joined Baker & Taylor in June 2014 as Executive Vice President for Software Products and Services and had previously served as a Chief Product Officer at McGraw-Hill Education.
Kochar succeeds David Cully in the top leadership position for Baker & Taylor, who has retired from the business. Cully had been with Baker & Taylor since 2008 and was appointed as President of the company in March 2017 following the exit of George Coe. Prior to becoming President, Cully served as Executive Vice President for Merchandising and Digital Media Services.
George Coe, who served as Chief Executive Officer and President of Baker & Taylor since January 2014, initially continued with the company following its acquisition by Follett Corporation. In February 2017, Coe was appointed as Chief Operating Officer for all of Follett Corporation in addition to his role in the leadership for Baker & Taylor. This arrangement was short lived; Coe retired from Follett in May 2017. Coe initially joined Baker & Taylor in 2000 as its President for its Library and Education Division.
Baker & Taylor has recently entered a new strategic phase of its business, phasing out its wholesale distribution of books to retail outlets and focusing more on supplying public and school libraries. This change is well aligned with Follett Corporation's broader business interests, but represents a disruption in the retail arena, especially for independent bookstores. This move positions Ingram Content Group as the dominant vendor in this sector. The Independent Book Publishers Association, for example, provided advice to its members on shifting distribution arrangements to Ingram.2
Leadership of Follett Higher Education
Two leadership changes impact Follett's Higher Education Group, which operates physical and virtual college and university stores and provides technology solutions for the distribution of digital content. This Follett business is involved in the new, used, rental, and digital course materials market. Follett Discover provides instructors with a set of online tools to find and adopt materials appropriate for their courses, including open educational resources and proprietary materials. Follett Access provides course materials to students as part of tuition. The program ensures every student is prepared for academic success on the first day of class, regardless of ability to pay. The program is currently in use at 230 colleges around the country. Follett Higher Education operates over 1,200 physical stores and 1,500 virtual stores for colleges and universities in the United States and Canada.
Follett Higher Education navigated through legal difficulties with major textbook publishers filing a lawsuit with claims of selling counterfeit textbooks in June 2017. These publishers were generally averse to the used textbook market and objected to any unauthorized physical or digital materials. The publishers dismissed their lawsuit in October 2017 as Follett, along with other distributors, adopted the “Anti-Counterfeit Best Practices” principles.3
This division has made major investments in technology in recent years. The company has executed a $50 million overhaul of its ecommerce platform for its online college stores, which went live in August.
Roe J. McFarlane was named President of Follett Higher Education Group in August 2019. He joined the company in 2014 as a Senior Vice President for Digital Product Development, advancing to Chief Digital Product and Marketing Officer for this division in June 2016. As President of Follett Higher Education, McFarlane will report directly to Follett Corporation CEO Patrick Connolly.
Leadership of Follett School Solutions
Follett School Solutions is the dominant provider of automation products to libraries in public and private PreK–12 schools in the United States, with its products used in over 70,000 school libraries or districts.
Britten Follett has been named as an Executive Vice President of Follett Corporation, responsible for leadership of Follett School Solutions. Follett previously served as the company's Senior Vice President for Marketing Strategy and Classroom Initiatives. She initially joined the company in 2010 as Marketing Manager for Follett International. Follett succeeds Nader Qaimari, who served as President of Follett School Solutions from April 2016 through June 2019 as well as an Executive Vice President of Follett Corporation.
Follett comes into this new leadership position as an active member of the family that owns the business with significant external experience. Follett is a member of the Follett Corporation board of directors and is one of the fifth-generation family members involved with the company. She is the daughter of Chuck Follett who founded Follett Software Company in 1985 and served as Follett Corporation President from June 2010 through January 2012. She descends from Charles W. Follett, the original owner of the company and his son Garth B. Follett, who founded Follett Library Book Company in 1940. His son Charles Reid Follett was President of Follett Library Resources.
Britten Follett is also involved in philanthropy. Since 2012 she has served as President of the Follett Educational Foundation (https://www.folletteducationalfoundation.org), which among other activities, awards scholarships to students of Follett Corporation associates.
Prior to joining Follett Corporation, Britten Follett was involved in broadcast journalism. Awards received for her reporting include an Emmy and Edward R. Murrow. She is a graduate of Southern Illinois University Carbondale.
As part of her role in Marketing Strategy and Classroom Initiatives, Britten Follett has championed the Follett Challenge (https://www.follettchallenge.com/), an annual contest that awards product and services to schools in recognition of outstanding programs or services. The content started in 2012 by then Follett Corporation President Chuck Follett. Each year, Follett products with a total value of $200,000 have been awarded to the winning applicants.4
Follett School Solutions has responsibility for a wide range of products and services offered to PreK–12 schools and districts. Its technology products include the Destiny Library Manager for school libraries, Destiny Resource Manager for managing diverse types of materials in schools and districts, and the Aspen student information system. This division offers a variety of content products for schools, including textbooks, library books, digital content, and other classroom materials. Instructors and administrators can acquire these materials through Follett's Titlewave content discovery and marketplace service. Follett School Solutions also provides professional services to assist schools and their libraries in curriculum development, outsourced cataloging and processing for library materials, or textbook management. Follett School Solutions has recently launched Follett Book Fairs, which help schools organize events to promote student reading, offering a wide selection of books for students and parents.
Over its history, Follett School Solutions has seen a significant evolution in its products and services, consistent with the changes in K–12 Education. Its products have shifted toward a stronger emphasis on digital content as use of print resources diminishes. New products increasingly enable access to open educational resources in addition to traditional proprietary textbooks and content. Follett's original orientation to school libraries has expanded to the broader educational institution. Many of its products support teachers and administrators, and support librarians as appropriate. Recent moves, including the appointment of Britten Follett, signal a future direction of emphasis on engagement and empowerment of school libraries.
Follett Corporation History and Background
Today Follett Corporation is a large privately-owned company, with a diversified set of business activities surrounding K–12 education, higher education, and public libraries. The company takes in around $3.2 billion in annual revenue and employs a workforce of around 12,000 personnel.
Follett Corporation has a long and interesting business history. Its pre-history begins with a used bookstore in Wheaton, Illinois owned and operated by Charles M. Barnes, which opened in 1873. Charles W. Follett was hired by Barnes in 1901 as a stock clerk and by 1912 had advanced to become a vice president and owned a share in the company, then known as the C.M.Barnes – Wilcox Company. Follett and his wife Edythe acquired full ownership of the company in 1924. The company has been under ownership of the Follett family ever since.
With Charles W. Follett continuing as President of the company, his four sons became involved in the business taking leadership of different areas:
- Garth B. Follett founded Follett Library Book Company, a distributor of children's books for schools, in 1940. This business was later renamed to Follett Library Resources.
- Robert D. (Bob) Follett founded Follett College Book Company in 1930 as a wholesale distributor of textbooks.
- Dwight Follett founded Follett Publishing Company, specializing in social studies textbooks, in 1925.
- Charles N. (Laddie) Follett (died January 2006) continued operation of original business Wilcox and Follett Company. He served as its President from 1952 through 1986.
The second generation of the Follett family put into place a set of four businesses that would see considerable transformation the generations. Their descendants, now in the fourth and fifth generation from the original ownership by Charles W. Follett, continue as the primary shareholders in Follett Corporation.
Follett Software Company
Follett Software Company was the division of Follett responsible for its library automation products, including its original Circulation Plus integrated library system for K–12 schools and the current Destiny library manager, which has become the dominant automation system for school libraries in the United States. Follett Software Company was founded by Charles R. (Chuck) Follett in 1985 and served as its President through 1998.
Thomas J. (Tom) Schenck was President of Follett School Solutions from April 1998 through October 2015. In November 2011, Schenck was named President and Chief Operating Officer of the Follett School and Library Group, which consolidated Follett Educational Services, Follett Library Resources, BWI, Follett International, and Follett Software Company. Simona Rollinson served as President of Follett Software Company from April 2011 through April 2014. Prior to that role, she served as the company's Vice President for Services and Operations.
Follett Software Company no longer exists as a standalone company, though its products continue within Follett School Solutions. Its library automation products, including those developed internally, such as Circulation Plus and Destiny, as well as those acquired externally, including Winnebago Spectrum, InfoCentre, and Athena, have been covered in many previous issues of Smart Libraries Newsletter.
Chronology of Key Events
- 1924: Charles W. Follett and Edythe Follett become sole shareholders of J.W. Wilcox & Follett Company.
- 1925: Dwight Follett establishes Follett Publishing Company, specializing in social studies textbooks.
- 1930: Robert D. (Bob) Follett establishes Follett College Book Company as a wholesale distributor of textbooks.
- 1940: Garth B. Follett establishes Follett Library Book Company, a distributor of children's books for schools.
- December 19, 1952: Charles W. Follett dies.
- 1952: Charles N. (Laddie) Follett becomes president of Wilcox and Follett Company, the original core business.
- 1957: Follett Corporation is incorporated as the holding company for all the family businesses.
- 1983: Follett Publishing Company is sold to Esquire Education Group for $10 million. Proceeds are invested in purchasing college bookstores.
- 1984: Follett acquires Library Software Company from Bob Skapura and Joe Ward.
- 1985: Follett Software Company is established by Chuck Follett.
- 1990: Follett acquires Book Wholesalers, Inc. (BWI), a distributor of children's books to public libraries.
- 1997: Follett Corporation and Internet Systems, Inc. establishes Library Systems & Services, providing outsourced management services for libraries.
- 1998: Follett Higher Education Group is formed and includes Follett College Stores, Follett Campus Resources, and Custom Academic Publishing Company.
- June 2006: Follett Corporation acquires Sagebrush Corporation, including the automation products Winnebago Spectrum, InfoCentre, and Athena.
- August 2006: Follett acquires TeraData Corporation, provider of data warehousing, analysis, and reporting solutions for K–12 school districts.
- October 2010: Follett acquires X2 Development Corporation, which created the Aspen Student Information System.
- September 2013: Follett acquires BetterKnow, providing technology tools for helping instructors discover and acquire appropriate course materials.
- 2014: Follett Educational Services, Follett Library Resources and Follett Software Company consolidates to form Follett School Solutions.
- February 2015: Follett acquires Advanced-Online, including technologies related to e-commerce for educational organizations and corporations.
- April 2015: Follett acquires the retail store division of Nebraska Book Company, expanding its operations by more than 200 establishments.
- February 2016: Follett acquires ClassBook, a company providing customized online bookstores to private and parochial schools, including e-commerce capabilities for print and digital materials.
- March 2016: Follett acquires Wobo, a company formerly known as Woody's Books, Inc., which provides services to campus bookstores with tools such as BookVolume for wholesale sourcing books and materials. This acquisition has strengthened Follett's wholesale business.
- April 2016: Follett Corporation acquires Bookmasters, a company that provides services to publishers and authors related to printing, warehousing, and distribution. This company is a major business partner of Baker & Taylor. April 2016: Follett Corporation acquires Baker & Taylor from Castle Harlan.
- July 2018: Follett acquires Fishtree, a leading adaptive learning platform. Follett will integrate the machinebased learning tools of Fishtree within Destiny, extending the use of Destiny into the classroom and home.
- IBPA, “IBPA Works with Ingram Content Group as Baker & Taylor Exits Wholesale Business,” news release, May 9, 2019, https://www.ibpa-online.org/news/450687/IBPA -Works-with-Ingram-Content-Group-as-Baker--Taylor -Exits-Wholesale-Business.htm.
- which started in 2012 by then Follett Corporation President Chuck Follett
- See also “Best under 40: Britten Follett,”. Northwest Herald, August 4, 2015, https://www.nwherald.com/2015/07/21 /best-under-40-britten-follett/akcajri/.