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Brodart Company

Brodart Company

500 Arch Street
Williamsport, Pennsylvania 17701
Telephone: (570) 326-2461
Toll Free: (800) 233-8467
Fax: (570) 326-1479
Web site:

Private Company
Founded: 1940 as Library Service
Employees: 1,210
Sales: $170.8 (2005 est.)
NAIC: 337127 Institutional Furniture Manufacturing; 323116 Manifold Business Form Printing; 337215 Showcase, Partition, Shelving, and Locker Manufacturing; 451211 Book Stores; 453210 Office Supplies and Stationery Stores

Brodart Company is a private company based in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, catering to librariesfrom small school libraries to large city librarieswith a broad array of products and services provided through several divisions. The Automation Division offers automation services and software to help improve library services.

Brodart's Books Services Division provides circulation-ready books and audiovisual materials (new or used) for purchase or lease. (Book leasing is an attractive option for many libraries, allowing them to meet the demand for current bestsellers without making an expensive permanent commitment to titles destined to dip in popularity.)

The Contract Library Furniture Division offers the gamut of furniture used in a library, including desk chairs, lounge chairs, tables, desks, computer workstations, and shelving and display units. Custom options, such as color, finish, and fabric, are also available. Another division, Tartan Book Sales, sells used hardcover library books to libraries, bookstores, and individuals.

Finally, Brodart's Supplies & Furnishings Division offers a vast assortment of miscellaneous library supplies, including scanners and bar-code labels, forms and notices, book repair supplies, archival supplies, binding machines and laminators, general office and computer supplies, signs, banners, easels, security mirrors and cameras, audiovisual supplies and equipment, book trucks, maps, globes, and puppets. The division also sells a product now taken for granted, but on which Brodart was founded: the plastic book jacket cover, invented by the company's founder, Arthur Brody.


Arthur Brody was born in 1920 in Newark, New Jersey, where his parents, Samuel and Ruth Brody, owned the Bro-Delle Book Shoppe. Just as people today rent video products from Blockbuster and the like, bookstores and other retailers of the period operated their own commercial lending libraries. One of the major drawbacks to the business, however, was the deterioration of the product: the covers wore out after a few readings, rendering the book worthless. In 1939 Brody was enrolled as a freshman at Columbia University when he decided to tackle this problem that vexed his parents in the hope of extending the life of the books they rented. Inspired by his architectural photography hobby, he removed the emulsion from some film and wrapped it around his textbooks to provide protection and ward off wear and tear. His fellow college students were impressed, prompting Brody to do some further development on his idea for a plastic book jacket. Turning to a company that produced clear plastic sheets, he tried different thicknesses until he settled on one that could be easily folded yet provided sufficient protection for the enclosed book.

Using the wringer attached to his grandmother's washing machine, Brody fed the plastic sheets through the rollers, folding them to encase the rental books from the Bro-Delle Book Shoppe. The covers did the job just as he had expected and the life of his parents' lending books was extended greatly, much to the profit of the family business. Believing that there was a ready market for the plastic book cover in libraries, Brody, still a college student, decided to go into business to sell the product, for which he received a patent. With only his personal savings to launch the company, which initially took the name Library Service, in 1940 he approached Les Cooley, the advertising manager of Library Journal, based in Manhattan. Cooley was impressed with Brody and his simple, yet effective, product and agreed to run an ad in Library Journal for what little money the young man had to offer. It would turn out to be a wise decision. The initial ad brought in enough business to support further advertising in Library Journal and Brody began to build his business.


World War II interrupted Brody's entrepreneurial career, as he served in the military from 1943 to 1946. Upon his discharge he revived the business, which took the name of Brodart Co. During the postwar economic boom, the library market expanded as the new suburbs where the baby boom generation grew up added libraries and new schools were built to accommodate the population explosion. Brody built on the success of the plastic jacket cover to supply other needs of library customers. In 1954 Brodart moved into the furniture manufacturing business and began selling library furniture to public and school libraries in the United States and eventually to libraries around the world. Also in the 1950s Brodart became a book distributor to the library market through a partnership with Nelson McNaughton, which became the McNaughton subsidiary of the Brodart Books & Services division.

Like Brody's parents, Nelson McNaughton began a commercial lending library, distributing his books through drugstores and other retailers that split the nickel-a-day rental charge. To protect his inventory he bought book jackets from Brodart, but despite having a large number of books in circulation he struggled to make money. He also had to contend with retail partners who were not financially stable. The bankruptcy of one drugstore had the happy effect of providing McNaughton with an entirely new channel for income. The retailer in question, located in West Virginia, was on the verge of having his books auctioned off to satisfy creditors when McNaughton hurried onto the scene to claim his rightful property. He was allowed to take the books, but was ordered to do so immediately. With no truck available to haul the books away, he found a stopgap solution in the local library, which was bereft of titles. The library was allowed to circulate the books, and in exchange it agreed to collect the books still checked out by the drugstore and the monies due. By the time McNaughton was ready to retrieve his books, he found that his books were extremely popular at the library. The two parties worked out an arrangement by which the library became McNaughton's partner, collecting lending fees on a commission basis. It was a popular concept that quickly spread to other parts of West Virginia, and soon McNaughton had more than a dozen library contracts in hand.


For over sixty years libraries have been able to turn to Brodart Co. for everything from furniture to electronic ordering systems.

While the library business looked promising, the business with retailers was doing poorly. In all probability, McNaughton was being cheated by his shopkeeper partners. McNaughton lacked the funds to stock the new accounts, and in fact his book supplier, Baker & Taylor, ceased the shipment of new books to him. McNaughton turned to Brody, asking for his opinion on the business. Brody was excited about the library angle but had severe misgivings about ever getting a straight accounting from the retailers. Soon McNaughton was on the verge of ruin. Brody stepped in, guaranteeing payment to Baker & Taylor to become a 50-50 partner with McNaughton on leasing book collections to librarieson the condition that McNaughton phased out the retailer side of the business. McNaughton Libraries Inc. was run by its founder until his retirement. It then became a Brodart division.

Brody did not limit himself to merely serving the library market. In 1968 he acquired Stacey's Bookstore in San Francisco to become involved in the distribution of medical books. Stacey's was established in 1923 by John W. Stacey, a bookseller and botany enthusiast who, through his physician friends, learned of a need for a medical book service. His store specialized in medical books until 1946, three years after his death, when it branched into technical and professional titles, including some of the earliest computer books. The store flourished, leading to the opening of a second store in the heart of San Francisco's financial district in 1959. General trade books were added in the 1960s through the addition of a large basement paperback department. Although Brody eventually exited the medical book distribution business, Stacey's remained a part of Brodart and grew into a San Francisco institution. In 1996, 10,000 square feet of retail space was added as part of a major renovation of the flagship store, which now included three floors of books, making Stacey's a true pioneer in the superstore concept in the book field. Stacey's also took advantage of its parent company, buying used books from another Brodart unit, Tartan Book Sales, to supply the store's highly popular sidewalk sales held two or three times a year.

Brody proved to be a businessman of ranging interests. He became chairman of Tura Inc., a Long Island-based maker of eyewear frames. He also established BDI Investment Corp. in San Diego in 1958 to serve as an investment vehicle. It would deal mostly in tax exempt notes and bonds. Brody also had a number of other outside interests. Both a Mason and a Shriner, he was active in several community service efforts, including serving as a trustee of Newark Symphony Hall, and a member of the boards for the Burnham Cancer Institute, the University of CaliforniaSan Diego Foundation, and the University of CaliforniaSan Diego Library.


Along the way, Brody took Brodart public but by the early 1980s he decided to return it to private status. In 1982 the company reported that a number of investor groups were interested in partnering with management to engineer a leveraged buyout of the stock. Ultimately, in the summer of 1983, Brody used BDI Investments to acquire all outstanding shares of Brodart stock at $9.10 per share.

As libraries became increasingly high-tech, Brodart added database management software and services, scanners and bar-code labels, and the other necessities of the modern library to supplement income brought in by the company's plastic jacket covers, which remained a viable product along with the leasing of book collections and furniture, including now-essential computer workstations. Moreover, the popularity of new audiovisual product formatsthe cassette tapes that gave way to CDs, and the videocassettes that were supplemented by DVDsadded a host of new products for Brodart to supply to libraries to protect and display these new circulating items. The company developed the PrecisionOne library management system for the public and school library market, and built upon the platform to launch new products. In 1999 Brodart introduced PinacleOne and SummitOne, an improved version of PrecisionOne, the first upgrade designed for public libraries and the second for school libraries.

Although still very much devoted to library customers, Brodart made inroads with booksellers. The company's display carts, racks, and supplies found retail uses as did Brodart's oldest product, the book jacket cover. Initially, out-of-print book dealers and antiquarian shops bought the covers to protect their wares, but the practice also began spreading to new booksellers who used the covers to prevent shop wear and the loss of revenues caused by books being relegated to the bargain table. Given that as much as 90 percent of a book's value was tied to the condition of the cover, the purchase of a jacket cover made a great deal of sense.

In the 2000s Brodart became involved in the fast-growing Spanish-language book market, a key to selling to the library market. It took a major step in this area with the 2004 purchase of San Francisco-based Books on Wings. The company, established in 1980, was a wholesaler representing some 10,000 Spanish-language children's and adult titles. Another development in 2004 reinforced Brodart's commitment to serving core library customers. The GEMS service was introduced to bring the titles of some 4,000 small publishers to the attention of acquisitions librarians.


The company is founded by Arthur Brody.
The name is changed to Brodart.
The company begins selling library furniture.
The company is taken private.
Brody retires and is replaced by Joe Largen.

After serving libraries for more than 60 years the one constant at Brodart was its founder, chief executive, and chairman. Well into his 80s, Brody elected to retire in August 2004. He was replaced as CEO and chairman by Brodart's president and chief operating officer, Joe Largen.

Ed Dinger


Automation Division; Book Services Division; Contract Library Furniture Division; Supplies & Furnishings Division.


Library Supplies; Steelcase Inc.; Oracle Corporation.


Beauge, John, "Brodart Co. to Expand to Williamsport," Patriot News (Harrisburg, Pa.), September 23, 1994, p. B5.

Berry, John, "Fifty Years with Libraries," Library Journal, December 1989, p. 83.

"Brodart's Arthur Brody Retires," Library Journal, October 15, 2004, p. 22.

Kawaguchi, Karen, "Brodart Has It Covered," Publishers Weekly, June 22, 2002, p. 77.

Milliot, Jim, "Brodart Buys Spanish-Language Wholesaler," Publishers Weekly, February 23, 2004, p. 14.

Rogers, Michael, "Brodart Aiding Small Publishers," Library Journal, March 15, 2004, p. 24.

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