Saturday, March 5, 2011

Evaluation of a ‘jobber’: Baker & Taylor

Scottish fold cats, the Baker & Taylor mascots
Image credit: Kinross Cattery
Baker & Taylor began binding and publishing books in 1828, according to a history on its website. It later began distributing books. “While [Leo] Tolstoy crafted the classic ‘War and Peace’ and [Jules] Verne became one of the fathers of science fiction, Baker & Taylor made sure their books made it onto library and store shelves and into readers’ hands” (Baker & Taylor).

The history states that today, Baker & Taylor is the world’s largest distributor of books and entertainment. According to the company’s “About Us” overview, it ships more than 1 million unique products annually and maintains about 385,000 titles in inventory and more than 1.5 million titles available for order. “We have substantially increased our book inventory with our new Print on Demand Program, allowing customers to access the titles they need when they need them.”

Baker & Taylor cites more than 44,000 customers in more than 120 countries.

The history notes that “Baker & Taylor is owned by Castle Harlan Partners IV, L.P., a private equity limited partnership that is organized and managed by Castle Harlan, Inc., a leading New York private equity investment firm. Castle Harlan acquired Baker & Taylor in 2006” (Baker & Taylor).

According to its “Locations” page, Baker & Taylor’s corporate headquarters are in Charlotte, North Carolina. It has service centers in Bridgewater, New Jersey; Commerce, Georgia; Indianapolis, Indiana; Momence, Illinois and Reno, Nevada. A colorful sidebar to Baker & Taylor’s history is that of its namesake mascots, two cats who lived at the Douglas County Public Library in Minden, Nevada:
The first of the pair took up residence there in 1983 and was named Baker, because he slept in a Baker & Taylor box. The librarians told a Baker & Taylor sales director that Baker needed a friend. Taylor followed two months later, thanks to a grant from Baker & Taylor.
Baker and Taylor carried on the long tradition of working library cats. The pair spent much of their time at the checkout counter. Many people dropped by just to see them (Baker & Taylor).
The original namesake mascots have both died but Kinross Cattery, a breeder of Scottish Folds based in Cambridge, Ontario, Canada, sheds light on a continuation of the saga, reporting on its “Brag Page” that in June 2009, two CFA-champion Scottish Folds, Mikey and Swayze, were brought to Philadelphia to be photographed. “After taking several pictures they produced an artist’s rendering of Mikey and Swayze who will now be the Baker & Taylor mascots” (Kinross Cattery).

Baker & Taylor’s history of its namesakes notes that “Baker and Taylor have been immortalized on our company's posters, tote bags and calendars. At trade shows, librarians line up to be photographed with larger-than-life Baker and Taylor models” (Baker & Taylor).

Baker & Taylor offers programs and services to academic, public and school libraries. One of its programs is “Automatically Yours,” which delivers the latest publications from popular authors to the library’s door (Baker & Taylor).

Some of the specific areas in which Baker & Taylor will set up plans for automatic ordering are popular adult fiction, large-print adult fiction, inspirational authors and children’s and teens’.

Baker & Taylor promotes its book leasing program as “a great way to temporarily increase your library’s number of popular books with the ability to return them when patron demand has subsided” (Baker & Taylor).

The Baker & Taylor lease plan is the subject of a review at EKS Libris: News and Notes from the Ethel K. Smith Library, posted by Richard Pipes in collection development:
As one can imagine, the Lease option is very popular with public libraries [that] would want multiple copies of bestsellers but only want to keep one copy permanently. For an academic library like the EKS, leasing gives a way to provide popular reading materials with a minimum of investment in scarce funds and space. After paying a basic subscription fee, the library gets to keep one book for each five books returned. B&T also has a sale once or twice a year when titles already held under the Lease Plan may be purchased for as little as $1.75 or $2.00 (Pipes).
Pipes’ review is one of several entries in the Wordpress-powered blog grouped by the subject Baker & Taylor. Its EKScursions subject category features reviews of books that were acquired through the lease plan.

Baker & Taylor offers winning titles in various children’s book awards: Caldecott Medal, Newbery Medal, Coretta Scott King author and illustrator awards, King/Steptoe New Talent Award, Michael L. Printz Award, Robert F. Sibert Medal, Theodore Seuss Geisel Award, Schneider Family Book Awards for children’s, middle school and teen; Mildred L. Batchelder Award, Odyssey Award and Pura Belpre author and illustrator awards.

Some other programs include continuing education and career center, Criterion Collection, “a continuing series of important classic and contemporary films;” digital media processing, DVD lease plan, FirstLook Basic, Plus and Custom, automatic notification about new and forthcoming titles; Gale e-Books and music programs.

Available services include acquisition, audiovisual, before on-sale shipping, children’s and teen’s, collection development, continuation, customized library, information, Machine Readable Cataloging (MARC) and Spanish language services. Baker & Taylor markets Blio, its own Windows-compatible e-reader software application, with “iPhone, iPad, Android versions coming soon” (Baker & Taylor).

Some affiliated programs and services include YBP Library Services, which provides collection management out of Contoocook, New Hampshire; Majors Educational Solutions, a distributor of books for higher education based in Lewisville, Texas; the Baker & Taylor Publishing Group imprints: Silver Dolphin Books, Thunder Bay Press and Portable Books (with editorial offices in San Diego, California and in Ashland, Oregon); Publisher Alley, an online tool that analyzes Baker & Taylor book sales; and TextStream print-on-demand services (Baker & Taylor).

In addition to accepting orders placed via mail, phone and fax, Baker & Taylor offers online ordering among its acquisition services (Baker & Taylor): B&T Link Online for ordering books, movies and music titles, Title Source 3 for online collection development and ordering and B&T Marc for automatic download of cataloging records.

Susan Clayton, director of the Lake County Library, places all adults’ and children’s book ordering through Baker & Taylor, including reference books in all subjects except law, which Clayton said she orders directly from the publisher. “I only rarely order directly from the publisher because going through Baker & Taylor gives me such a wonderful discount, about 40 percent” (Clayton).

Clayton said she uses Library Journal and School Library Journal for collection development for the Lakeport, Upper Lake and Middletown branches of the Lake County Library. “Baker & Taylor has virtually all the books that are reviewed. I can go directly from the review to Baker & Taylor.”

When placing an order, Clayton goes directly to the Baker & Taylor website, where she logs in the library’s account. She demonstrated opening a shopping cart online and inputting the ISBN as it appeared in the LJ review. A warning screen alerted her that the book had been ordered previously and was on backorder status.

Clayton said that only specific titles, such as books by local authors that are not in the Baker & Taylor inventory, present a problem for ordering because Lake County will not let the library pre-pay for orders. Books ordered through Baker & Taylor are paid for as they arrive; Clayton showed me an invoice that Baker & Taylor had submitted to the library for payment.

Asked if the library uses Baker & Taylor’s cataloging service, Clayton said the library does not, because of the cost. She said that the library gets sales calls regularly but she always says, “Because of our budget” (Clayton).

In Developing Library and Information Center Collections, the authors G. Edward Evans and Margaret Zarnosky Saponaro state that a library’s collection development officer has reason to believe that a chosen jobber will provide a large inventory of titles, prompt and accurate order fulfillment, prompt and accurate reporting on items not in stock and personal service at a reasonable price (Evans 259). Clayton agreed that Baker & Taylor was all of these things.

Amy Patton, library technician for the Lake County Library, said that Baker & Taylor had “extremely good customer service” (Patton). Patton places orders for the Redbud branch of the Lake County Library; the titles are selected by its director.

In summary, Baker & Taylor appears to have a very broad inventory. Library Journal is published every two weeks and Clayton said Baker & Taylor’s inventory is current with the reviews in the magazine (Clayton).

Baker & Taylor also seems to have a good reputation among libraries. The people I spoke with at my local library were pleased with its services, as were the authors of the EKS Library blog. My view of the website gave me confidence in its services and I would recommend its use.

  • Baker & Taylor. About Us. Web. 19 Feb. 2011.
  • ---. “Acquisition Services.” About: Services. Web. 26 Feb. 2011.
  • ---. “Automatically Yours.” About: Programs. Web. 26 Feb. 2011.
  • ---. Blio. Web. 26 Feb. 2011.
  • --- “Book Leasing.” About: Programs. Web. 26 Feb. 2011.
  • ---. “Businesses and Services.” About Us: Businesses and Services. Web. 26 Feb. 2011.
  • ---. “History of Baker & Taylor.” About Us: Our History. Web. 19 Feb. 2011.
  • ---. “Locations.” About Us: Locations. Web. 19 Feb. 2011.
  • Clayton, Susan. Personal interview. 2 March 2011.
  • Evans, G. Edward and Margaret Zarnosky Saponaro. “Distributors and Vendors.” Developing Library and Information Center Collections. 5th ed. Westport: Libraries Unlimited, 2005. Print.
  • Kinross Cattery. “Brag Page.” Kinross Cattery. Web. 26 Feb. 2011.
  • Patton, Amy. Personal interview. 2 March 2011.
  • Pipes, Richard. “Baker & Taylor Lease Plan.” EKS Libris: News and Notes from the Ethel K. Smith Library. Nov. 11, 2004. Web. 19 Feb. 2011.
Compiled for Cuesta College LIBT 105, Library/Information Center Collections

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