Five years after it left the academic library market, Baker & Taylor has returned. In an announcement yesterday, B&T executives said it has established a new unit which will serve academic libraries worldwide with a range of library products and services to institutions, as well as its catalog of books, movies, and music for colleges and universities.

Aman Kochar, executive v-p and general manager of B&T, told PW the company got back in the academic library market for two reasons—a change in corporate ownership since the company exited the market in 2015, and changes in the industry caused by the pandemic.

B&T left the academic market with the sale of YBP to EBSCO in late 2015 in what then B&T executive v-p Dave Cully said was a decision to focus on its core markets of public and school libraries. Recently, Kochar said, librarians have been reaching out to the company to get back in the market. A return was made more feasible by B&T’s ties to Follett Corp, which bought the company in April 2016. Kochar said that B&T and Follett “have lots of synergy” in the college market, including through Follett’s operation of roughly 1,200 college stores.

While the two wholesalers serving the academic market do a good job, Kochar said, B&T is re-entering the market as a “service first” organization. In getting back into the market, Kochar said, “I didn’t want to be just another guy,” but wanted to provide a unique offering. He pointed to B&T’s Sustainable Shelves Program—in which B&T buys back unwanted print books from a library’s collection for credit— as an example of a new service that has been successful in public libraries as one that could work in the academic area. “We want to help libraries operate more efficiently” Kochar said, as Covid-19 upends many traditional practices, and leading to a greater need for digital materials.

So, now that B&T has returned to the academic library market, is a return to the retail trade market, which B&T exited in May 2019, in cards?

“We thought someone would ask that,” Kochar said, “but the answer is no. Getting into the retail market and academic library market is like comparing apple to oranges. They are very different markets.”