WiLS October 2014 Vendor Partner Interview: Randy Blasier, Mackin Educational Resources
At WiLS, we want to bring valuable information to our library partners, including information about the missions and big ideas of the vendors they may already do business with. Each month, WiLS interviews a vendor partner in order to bridge the gap and open the door to valuable collaborations. This month, we are delighted to share insights from Randy Blasier, National Sales Director for Mackin Educational Resources.
If you have any questions about this interview, or would like to suggest a vendor partner for us to interview in the future, contact Andrea Coffin at or 414-979-9457.
Tell us about your company’s background.
Mackin Educational Resources was founded over 30 years ago by current owners, Randal and Kitty Heise, who are still very active in the business today. Mackin is an aggregator of educational resources, supplying print books, ebooks, databases, audio books and audio and video devices to thousands of schools worldwide. We work with over 18,000 publishers to offer the best selection of materials at the best prices, with close to 2.5 million titles and nearly 350,000 digital resources.
Mackin is staffed with experts in Collection Analysis and Development, Classroom Solutions, and New School Services. Mackin specializes in customization and prides itself on industry leading customer service, plus offering free standard processing and shipping
Randal and Kitty are visionaries in the industry and we are proud to always be the forerunner in the market, with new services and products. We have built a robust FREE eResource Management System – called MackinVIA, which we are very proud of. MackinVIA has the ability to house all digital resources whether purchased from Mackin or another source and allows one user name and password to access all digital materials. Additionally, the FREE MackinVIA Reader app, which now is available for 10 devices, allows MackinVIA users to check out and download Mackin-hosted eBooks for off line reading. Additionally, the app includes features such as keyword search, bookmarking, and annotations. Users can highlight text in multiple colors. There are three levels of the popular Merriam-Webster dictionary as well as a citation service by EasyBib.
Why do you, personally, choose to work with libraries?
Libraries are committed to the education of children and Mackin values its partnership with the schools and staff that understand the need to offer the best educational resources possible. We look for solutions to provide library personnel with more time, more value and more opportunities to aid in the educational process. We both share the same mission….to make a difference in a child’s life.
Employees at Mackin have a genuine concern in the education of children and making sure that we are doing everything possible to assist our customers. When you talk to someone at Mackin, and you will always talk to a live person, or walk around Mackin, you can see the passion that every employee has for the education industry. We work hard to get things done the right way.
For me personally, I was in a completely different industry prior to coming to Mackin. Working with our Sales Consultants, visiting customers, and attending industry conferences has allowed me to be involved in an industry that makes such an important impact every single day. I would like to think that I am one of those typical Mackin employees that enjoy seeing the results of offering good services, great products and significant value so that libraries can accomplish their goals and overcome their challenges. What intrigues me about this industry is the knowledge that educators have and how adept they have to be in order to work with many different interest and skill levels.
What do you like to know about the libraries you work with? What helps you better understand their needs?
Understanding the background, goals and challenges that the library is undertaking always helps us to offer customized solutions that meet their exact needs. We realize that no two libraries are the same and that what we may have just done for someone else, albeit it a wonderful solution, may not be what your library requires. This is one of the reasons that we have Sales Consultants, not sales representatives, because we want to be able to truly understand your goals and help find the resources that work for you.
Our Sales Consultants look for the media specialist to paint a complete picture of what is going on in their entire school, not just their library. We are always interested in the school’s successes and challenges around literacy, curricula that are under review, topics the children love to read about, technology that is being implemented that could be leveraged with eBooks, and more. The more we can understand about the school as a whole, the better we can align Mackin’s capabilities to be a partner in the education process at the school.
How can librarians become partners in product or training development?
I think the key in the success of any librarian is how they can integrate with teachers in their school and assist in their curriculum needs. Curriculum directors, teachers, and other school officials are all seeking effective ways to especially deliver digital content to their students. In many cases, the library has already been exploring this question for years. Now is definitely the time for librarians to stand up within their schools and districts and show off the knowledge and vendor relationships they have cultivated about digital content
We know that we have cutting-edge design with MackinVIA, but we have received many great comments and suggestions from librarians on how to use digital resources for leisure reading and literacy and curriculum support that trigger more ideas and future updates. Additionally, MackinVIA Connext, which is a forum for the community of MackinVIA fans and follows that are excited to share their individual efforts toward enriching the lives of their students and children. The more we hear from active MackinVIA users about their experiences, the better we can make our digital platform!
I thought I would ask an expert this question as well. Many of you may be familiar with Shannon Miller from Iowa. Shannon is a well respected teacher, librarian and technology integration specialist that has spoken at numerous engagements and assisted many school districts in professional development. Here is what Shannon says: “Librarians should be one of the leaders in product and training development. They have the unique opportunity to work with all of the resources and people within a school community, so they are the perfect fit! Plus, librarians are experts at many things…..curriculum, collection, technology, resources, digital citizenship, etc… They can easily make things happen by having their foot in so many things across a district and school. Librarians are also the “go-to” person for their school community. By being involved in product and training development they can best match and support the needs of everyone.” Well said Shannon! You can follow Shannon on Twitter @shannonmiller.
What big ideas are being worked on at your company? What problems are being solved?
At Mackin we are constantly looking at ways of improving the products and services we offer. Many of the enhancements we make are from ideas generated from our customers . In this era of change, we want to make sure we are proactive and are addressing industry initiatives.
One big idea is consortia buying power and parity for digital users, whether in a small rural setting or large urban library. We have been spreading the word about the added value that comes with successfully banding together the buying power of schools, districts, educational agencies or even entire states. By leveraging combined buying power, libraries can negotiate contracts or opportunities that reward all of the members and bring a larger pool of resources to all.
Taking that even a step further, MackinVIA is solving access issues because it has been designed to hold digital materials for your library in your individual account, no matter if the digital materials were purchased on a site basis or as part of a larger buy. The streamlined beauty of MackinVIA easily gets the user to all of the ebooks, databases, audiobooks or links with a single username and password. No need to log in to numerous different websites and try to remember all of the different passwords.
Do you have anything else you’d like to share here?
Of course, we spoke quite significantly about digital resources but Mackin is still the go-to provider for print books, CDs, DVDs, and MP3s. With a well-rounded catalog of materials from over 18,000 publishers, we are the leader for New School libraries each year. With plenty of free services from custom collection development to exact Dewey sorting, shipping in color-coded boxes and on-site shelving assistance for opening a new library, we make the process easy and painless and you will have a complete collection on your shelves on opening day. Just ask one of our New School Specialists to help with your new library.
We at Mackin appreciate the work you all do as educators and the time, energy and commitment you demonstrate each and every day. We thank our valued customers for putting your trust in us for the past 30 years and we look forward to servicing those that are not familiar with Mackin, but may want to try an alternative. Just give us a call….you will always talk to a live person!