No company in the book publishing world is more associated with Nashville and the surrounding area than Ingram Industries. Based in the city for nearly 60 years, the company employs close to 2,000 people in the greater Nashville area. While Ingram headquarters is in the city itself, Ingram Content Group’s main offices are in nearby LaVergne, home to Ingram’s main warehouse, its Lightning Source business, the Ingram Publisher Services distribution division, and Ingram Library Services.
Public libraries are ILS’s core market, so the company is pulling out all stops to make librarians and other PLA guests feel at home, says Shawn Everson, chief commercial officer for Ingram Content Group. Ingram representatives will meet librarians at the airport where they will hand out swag and help them navigate how to get to Nashville from the airport. The company also has a host of activities planned for PLA attendees, including a party it is hosting on the night of Thursday, February 27, in partnership with HarperCollins and the Nashville Public Library, Everson says.
A tour of the LaVergne facilities is planned for February 26, where, in addition to offering tours of the warehouse and Lightning Source operation, Ingram executives will present librarians with an overview of the publishing trends they are seeing, says Pamela Smith, v-p of marketing for ILS.
Ingram has also created blog posts to help attendees navigate the show, as well as Nashville. Posts include “Top 11 Nashville Literary Destinations” and “Boozy Nashville: Where to Drink for PLA.” One reason Ingram is eager to make librarians and other attendees feel welcome is that the event is the first major publishing-related conference to be held in the city. “We think this is a great thing for Nashville,” Everson says.
Ingram has been in the library business for about 30 years, and Everson notes that the group began as an arm of the retail wholesaling business. Over time, Ingram has formed the country’s largest distribution business and created a self-publishing division, Ingram Spark. All these businesses give ILS access to millions of titles, Everson says, while also putting ILS in position to provide libraries with insight on which books retailers in their area are carrying and giving them a chance to stock titles bookstores are promoting.
With Ingram having access to so many titles, a key part of its library offering is developing programs that make it easier for librarians to sort through all the titles that are available. The company’s newest program is iCurate, which Ingram will be demonstrating at PLA. iCurate has three components, according to Smith, and the main one is called Coming Soon. With books selected by Ingram’s team of librarians, Coming Soon will provide librarians with key titles coming out in the next 60–90 days (which can include drop-in titles), and Ingram will offer three lists: adult, children’s, and teen. Libraries can choose between small, medium, or large lists, designations that are based on the number of titles included, Smith explains.
Another aspect of iCurate is called Core: Ingram’s librarians will review a library’s selection list to make sure the library is not missing out on any must-have titles. With the increase in consumer marketing by publishers, Smith says, library patrons are very aware of when books are coming out. “We want to alert librarians and help them get books on the shelves as fast as possible,” she adds.
The guiding principle behind iCurate—to help librarians save time in collection development as a way to help them work more efficiently—is the goal of all of ILS’s products. “We want to develop shelf-ready products that can help librarians get their job done as quickly as possible,” Smith notes.
Ingram’s approach to the library appears to be working. Everson says that over the past five years, sales in the division have risen by single digits every year. Overall, Everson says, Ingram Content Group had a solid 2019. Sales in the retail wholesaling division—which received a lift from Baker & Taylor’s exit from the market—had a solid sales increase, and Ingram Spark and Lightning Source had sales gains. “There are challenges out there,” Everson adds, “but we benefit by being a well diversified company.”
The Ingram-Nashville Connection
To say that the Ingram family’s ties to the Nashville area runs deep is an understatement. “The Ingram family has helped bring Nashville into worlds it had never been,” says Shawn Everson.
Below are some examples of Ingram’s role in the Nashville community.
● Ingram Content Group chairman John Ingram led the effort to bring professional soccer to Nashville and is the owner of the new MLS team, Nashville SC, which will begin play at an away game on February 29.
● Civic endeavors the family has backed include building the Nashville Schermerhorn Symphony Hall (Nashville’s first symphony hall); creating the Nashville Entrepreneur Center; and creating initiatives like Limitless Libraries. The latter is a partnership between the Nashville Public Libraries and the public school system whereby all school-age children in Nashville can access the full catalogue of books in the public library system from their school.
● The family is also longtime supporters of Vanderbilt University, with family members serving and chairing the board of trustees and leading a number of large capital pursuits of the university.
● Other endeavors where the Ingrams have provided leadership across the city include chairing the Chamber of Commerce board; serving on the boards of Nashville Public Library, the United Way, and the Nashville Symphony. Ingrams have also participating in Nashville’s Agenda (a goal-setting effort for the city) and Partnership 2020 (an economic development and education vision for the city).