Follett's Story

For more than 140 years, Follett has been taking care of the critical details that make it easier for schools to run, teachers to teach and students to learn.


Follett Corporation was founded in 1873 when Charles M. Barnes opened a used book store in his Wheaton, Illinois home. Three years later, Barnes moved his business, now named C.M. Barnes & Company, to Chicago where he opened a store at 23 LaSalle Street. Here, he sold new and used textbooks, stationary and school supplies.

Photo caption: C.W. Follett in his office.


In 1912, C.W. Follett became vice president and a shareholder of the company.

In 1917, William Barnes sold his remaining interest in the company to John Wilcox. Later that year Barnes moved to New York where he partnered with G. Clifford Noble and founded Barnes & Noble.

The following year, with Wilcox nearing retirement, C.W. Follett took over management of the company and it was once again renamed, this time as J.W. Wilcox & Follett Company.

Photo caption: Wilcox & Follett, 1255 S. Wabash office, Chicago, Illinois. 1934.

Photo caption: Follett Accounting Department. Circa 1950's.


In 1997, Follett joined Internet Systems, Inc. in forming Library Systems & Services, L.L.C., a joint venture that provides library management services to public, academic and corporate libraries across the country. In addition, Follett purchased Book Wholesalers, Inc. (BWI) - a distributor of children's books to public libraries.

In 1998, Follett associates celebrated the company's 125th anniversary. To strengthen the company's ability to meet the needs of its customers, Follett aligned its various business units under three market groups - Higher Education, Elementary and High Schools and Libraries.

In 1999, Follett launched the web site.


In 2000, Follett's three core market groups were combined to form Follett Higher Education Group and Follett Library and School Group.

Following a rigorous analysis of the company's portfolio of business units, Follett merged Follett Media Distribution, which provided audio visual products to school and public libraries, into BWI in an effort to provide our library customers with one-stop shopping for all of their book and media needs. In addition, in June of 2003, Follett sold its interest in Library Systems & Services, LLC (LSSI).


In 2011, the Follett School and Library Group was created to serve the K-12 market under one business group. Strategic business decisions were made to move the focus of the school and library group into the K-12 classroom, and in 2011, certain assets of Follett's public library business, BWI, were sold.

In March 2014, approximately 750 employees from the Company's corporate office and higher education businesses at Chicago-area suburban operations in Oak Brook, Westmont and River Grove relocated to Three Westbrook Corporate Center, a 160,000 square-foot tower in Westchester, IL.

In April 2014, Follett's PreK-12 businesses became one legal entity - Follett School Solutions, Inc. The new entity simplifies the customer experience and enhances Follett's offerings by integrating the content, technology, and services previously offered by three separate businesses: Follett Educational Services, Follett Library Resources and Follett Software Company.


The Company has an eye on the future, currently focusing on e-commerce, digital offerings and text rental in addition to its core areas of expertise.