A Lasting Legacy

Pioneer businessman Chuck Follett through digital and other transitions.

LEADER SPOTLIGHT | by Victor Rivero

Chuck Follett is the forward-thinking member of the Follett family business who founded Follett Software company over three decades ago. Chuck is now retired, but his influence on the edtech industry is indisputable, and his legacy lives on in schools and libraries across the country, and within the Follett business as it continues to grow and branch out into all aspects of teaching and learning.


Chuck Follett’s passion for education and technology made him a recognized leader and innovator in the education industry. A fourth-generation member of the family that has owned the venerable educational bookseller and service producer Follett Corp., Chuck retired in June 2012 as the corporation’s president/CEO. In his nearly four decades at Follett, he held a wide range of company leadership and executive posts, including executive VP/Follett Library and School Group (2000-05), and VP/Technology for the Corporation. From 2005 until he was named President and CEO in June 2010, Chuck served as president of the Follett Technology Solutions and International Group.

“Chuck gave me a research grant to cover the costs. My dissertation went on to win the outstanding dissertation award for the field that year.”

In 1985, Chuck founded Follett Software Co., and served as its president for nearly 15 years. Under his leadership, the McHenry, Ill.-based business grew to become the nation’s largest provider of library automation software and services.

After nearly 140 years in business, the company has continued to build long, trusting relationships with customers and educators. Prior to his retirement, the Western Illinois University graduate said it was of particular importance to him that the firm was well positioned to evolve with the industry’s digital transition.

Realistic solutions

“One thing we’ve worked particularly hard on, and have been very successful at, is our strategy related to digital,” he says. “I don’t think everybody understands that there are gatekeepers in K-12 … and we are able to bring to the table realistic solutions that work within the construct of the way the schools operate. We understand how schools operate, how universities operate, and we are their trusted partner.”

chuck-with-booksNancy Everhart, a professor in the College of Communication and Information at Florida State University, will never forget how Chuck helped her early in her career.

“I was one of the first school librarians to automate my library with the Follett system in the early 1980s,” Nancy says. “I found it so valuable I went on to do my dissertation study on how the Follett system impacted how school librarians spent their time. I had to rent small devices librarians could wear that beeped at random times to collect data. These cost $900 to rent and Chuck gave me a research grant to cover the costs. My dissertation went on to win the outstanding dissertation award for the field that year.”

She later went on to head up the number one-ranked school library program in the U.S. at Florida State University, and also was named president of the American Association of School Librarians (AASL) in 2010-11. “Chuck has always been there to support me and thousands of other school librarians,” she says.


Always innovative

Chuck is a past recipient of the AASL’s Crystal Apple Award, which recognizes leadership and significant contribution to the industry. His legacy will continue with the Follett Challenge, which he founded and recently concluded its fifth consecutive year highlighting and rewarding the most innovative K-12 programs that teach 21st century skills to students. His daughter Britten Follett is Vice President Marketing at Follett School Solutions.

Today, Chuck resides in Marengo, Ill., with his wife, Dale. He is still a member of Follett Corporation’s board of directors and executive committee.

Meanwhile, Follett Corporation is one of the world’s largest single sources of books, entertainment products, digital content and multi-media for libraries, schools and retailers. The company’s leadership continues to maintain an eye on the future, focusing on e-commerce, digital offerings and text rental in addition to its core areas of expertise.

Victor Rivero is the Editor-in-Chief of EdTech Digest. Write to: victor@edtechdigest.com


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