Follett Changes Course on Proposed Destiny Changes in Response to Library Community Outcry

In response to new legislation and customer requests, Follett was working on optional features that would allow parents to request to be notified what book their child has checked out of the library and limit their access to materials. They will no longer be creating those options.

This story has been updated.

Follett heard the concerns of librarians and has decided not to proceed with new features for their Destiny software that would have enabled parents to be notified of the books their child has checked out at the library and to limit their child’s access to materials within the library management system.

In response to the week's largely angry feedback, the company released a statement late Friday announcing the decision.

"We take very seriously the feedback we have received from librarians and industry partners regarding a potential parental control module for Destiny Library Manager," the statement from Britten Follett, CEO of content and Paul Ilse, CEO of software, read. "Based on this feedback, Follett will not proceed with any plans to develop this module.

"At Follett, our mission is to support librarians and get books into the hands of students. We support the American Library Association’s Library Bill of Rights and advancing–not limiting–the role of the librarian and the school library.”

The proposed features had come in response to customer requests because of new legislation. Reports of those prospective features sparked swift reaction among the library community. On Twitter, one librarian demanded ALA (the American Library Association) remove Follett as a sponsor of their annual conference, while others called on districts to drop Destiny.

Follett Destiny is the market-leading library management system, used in more than 60,000 K-12 schools worldwide. Librarians are concerned about student privacy and the impact of these changes on vulnerable kids, particularly the LGBTQIA+ community.

“One of my concerns is that this software is being developed in such a way that makes it harder for libraries to protect student privacy,” library data privacy consultant Becky Yoose told SLJ before Follett changed course. “The option is dangerous because of this reactionary decision making that we're seeing from schools that might not be thinking through all the consequences.”

According to Follett, the current version of Destiny enables librarians to send regular reports to parents of books checked out. Librarians can also send them late notices for books that are overdue. In addition, Destiny enables librarians to limit the collection by any metric they choose, including age level, or—if requested by a parent—limit the subject matter or specific titles a particular student is allowed to check out from the library.

The proposed new features would not have been default settings. A parent would have had to opt in. With the features, parents could have chosen to get reports or limit what can be checked out by their child. Those so inclined could limit subject matter or specific titles within Destiny without making the request through the school's librarian.

Yoose was concerned that districts could make the option their default, automatically opting in all students to have reports sent to their parents as a way to avoid legal action.

“My concern that we might be overcorrecting—the vendors and school districts might be overcorrecting because they are so afraid of legal threats,” Yoose said. “That's just amazing that you can use the threat of legal action as a way to just do things that [they] otherwise would not consider.”

The laws, she noted, do not specifically mention books but, of course, the vagueness of the language and the unknown possible repercussions are part of educators’ concern.

Contrary to the news story that seemed to launch the Twitter debate, Follett said the company did not start exploring new features in response to seeing to book complaints across the country. Instead, it was approached by districts in Florida requesting a way to adhere to the new Parents Rights in Education law, which takes effect July 1. Soon after beginning discussions with Florida districts, Follett heard from customers in Texas and Georgia as well.

Earlier in the week, Follett described herself as “disappointed” in the Twitter discourse surrounding the issue and her company. Friday night, librarians tweeted Follett's statement and celebrated their victory.

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Kara Yorio

Kara Yorio (kyorio@mediasourceinc.com, @karayorio) is news editor at School Library Journal.

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