Baker & Taylor, the world’s leading library content provider, is all about community
“If you give people books that are, in a metaphorical sense, windows, mirrors, and sliding glass doors where they can see themselves and others … you create lifelong learners.” That’s how Amandeep Kochar synthesizes the ultimate purpose of the premier supplier of library content, software, and services to public and academic libraries in America: Baker & Taylor.
Celebrating 194 years of service to libraries and publishers, Baker & Taylor is one of the world’s largest providers of content and services to public libraries, touching over thousands of public libraries around the globe, including 80% of libraries in America.
In November 2021, Kochar purchased the venerable firm from educational content provider Follett, returning it to an owner-operated business for the first time in six decades. “I have the great privilege of being the latest guardian of this wonderful brand,” he enthused.
Currently, B&T serves 6,000 libraries and educational institutions with print materials, digital content, and software products. On the publishing side, they supply a comprehensive range of services including sales, marketing, printing, and fulfillment, with a major market presence in the U.S., Australia, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom.
Under the new ownership, B&T is evolving from its history as a content aggregator and distributor to become a community outcomes partner for libraries. “We’re committed to protecting the cause of librarians, libraries, and information so that it can create outcomes in a community,” he explained. Those outcomes result from close partnerships with libraries to assemble community-specific content.
Kochar pointed to extensive research demonstrating the impact of literacy on a community, citing the connection between reading fiction and the development of empathy. “There’s an $8.00 return for every dollar invested in literacy and public spaces, so you can link empathy and literacy to health and wellness.” Literacy and empathy are also connected to higher levels of socioeconomic success, less bullying in schools, and breaking the high school-to-jail pipeline.
Kochar estimated that over 150 million Americans visit libraries annually; published statistics show that libraries attract more people than Starbucks and all the sporting events combined. He pointed out that libraries are some of the few places left where people can get the same level of service regardless of social status. Day after day, the profession provides equitable service to everyone crossing their thresholds.
“We help libraries in their endeavor to be the most trusted institution in a community, whether through bringing content that they’re proud of that serves their communities or helping them with programming that brings more people into the library and helps the people in the community that need the most amount of help.” At all levels, whether libraries have a macro goal of evolving their identity in a community or their micro goals of improving their metrics around programming, circulation, and turnover, Baker & Taylor is a lifelong partner.
B&T leverages their extensive insights into library purchase and user consumption to enhance workflow efficiency and as a tool to help institutions use their funding as conscientiously and efficiently as possible. Their state-of-the-art technology creates efficient workflows that assist librarians with tasks including removing unwanted books, collection development and management, collection analysis, title acquisition and ordering, and cataloging and processing.
Their collectionHQ management software, the first of its kind to blend big data, machine learning, and artificial intelligence, provides a descriptive analysis of past circulation patterns to gauge future demand.
The program enables collection managers to receive a prediction on the circulation of a particular title and recommends how many units each branch should buy to satisfy the most optimal needs in both the branch and the community it serves. The software is currently used by over 500 library systems worldwide.
The success of collectionHQ led to the development of an algorithm that predicts the need for new content based on the historical readership of their communities. They created a confidence score system with 15 parameters around genre, author, and circulation and integrated it with an e-commerce platform to help libraries balance their collections.
“Now you have this tool that is more descriptive in nature that you can use to modify and plan, taking in your community’s reading habits or psychographic behavior and predicting the money that you’re about to spend.” Kochar said. In addition to creating lifelong learners, he added that the dream of every author and publisher is to have more readers spending more disposable income.
“Publishing is alive and well, and is a fiscally sustainable business to be in,” he said. Robust and longstanding relationships with publishers of all sizes and areas of interest, including the Big Five (Simon & Schuster, Penguin Random House, HarperCollins, Hachette Book Group, and Macmillan), have kept B&T in the leadership position.
Whether they specialize in educational, academic, trade, religious publishing, or any esoteric parochial content, B&T’s customers depend on them to be the conduit for receiving, processing, selling, and protecting the value of their unique content. “Our relationship with our publishing partners is based on trust, transparency, the longevity of the business, and their commitment to creating lifelong learners through our partnership with libraries,” he added.
The company has maintained extraordinarily transparent relationships with their publishers in good times and bad. When struck by a ransomware attack, he said, “Our publisher partners have stood by us in a steadfast way and with unwavering support, including calls from several publishing CEOs who’ve either gone through this or have expressed their deepest empathy when we were going through this as well.”
As a self-described continuous innovator, Kochar uses B&T’s platform and thought leadership to promote literacy, diversity, equity, and inclusion. He serves on the boards of directors for the National Book Foundation and United for Libraries (a division of the American Library Association), as well as the Wall Street Journal’s invitation-only CEO Council.
When Covid shuttered 95 percent of the country’s libraries, Kochar kept the B&T team engaged by creating an internal Diversity Council. “There’s a disturbing trend that less than eight percent of children’s books have diverse characters in primary or secondary leads,” he said. To improve those statistics, he established Paw Prints Publishing; every book has a diverse lead and secondary character.
Every book uses the Lexile Frameworks for Reading, a universally lauded reading scale that matches students to materials at the right level of difficulty, and the Collaborative for Academic and Social Emotional Learning network, designed to strengthen competence in social and emotional learning to advance educational equity.
“Every child is different, and we’re not defining diversity as ethnic diversity,” he said. A book featuring a child with a speech impediment has been written in conjunction with a tenured speech therapist; another addresses childhood food insecurity, with part of the proceeds going to Feeding America.
Kochar is also a first-time author, writing the first book in the Paw Prints series, Jeet and Fudge: Friends Forever. The story centers on a young Sikh boy and his chocolate labradoodle, drawn from Kochar’s experiences.
The effort is a compelling reflection of his personal passions and aligns with the B&T commitment to making the world a better place through literacy and lifelong learning. “Every book focuses on our mantra of creating and distributing books for libraries that create windows, mirrors, and sliding glass doors.”
Baker & Taylor is the leading supplier of library content, software and services to public and academic libraries in the U.S. We also provide sales, manufacturing, warehousing and distribution support to small and mid-sized publishers through our Publisher Services business.
Our mission is to help our library partners inspire and serve their communities through literacy and learning. By providing libraries with access to a multitude of formats and titles, we help our library partners meet their patrons where they are at in their lives.
Founded in 1828, Baker & Taylor began by binding and publishing books and later expanded into distributing books, originally by horse-drawn carriage. Since then, we’ve grown our focus and efforts to harness the power of technology and digitization to develop progressive and innovative services that promote the progress and success of your library.
Based in Charlotte, N.C., Baker & Taylor is an independent, privately held company. We feel privileged to partner with more than 5,000 libraries and to support our library and publishing partners as they advance literacy in communities worldwide.
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