Coop FAQ

Please note, to access some of the links you may need to have login access to the MHEC website. For information on registering to access the MHEC website, please see How do I register to use the MHEC website once my library becomes a member?

Updated January 2013
General Cooperative Purchasing Questions
Who is MHEC?
What is MLS’ relationship with MHEC?
What happened to our MARLS contracts?
What about non-library specific contracts, such as office supplies?
Does my library need to be a member?
What if my school district or town/city is already an MHEC member?
How do I find out if my school district or town/city is already an MHEC member?
If my school district or town/city is not a member, how do I sign up?
What if my town/city/district has questions about the use of MHEC contracts by municipalities?
How do I register to use the MHEC website once my library becomes a member?
How do I search the MHEC website for contracts?
Does MLS or MHEC provide training on how to use the contracts?
I noticed some discounts are not as good as the MARLS contracts. Why is this?
I noticed some vendors we used to use are not contracted with MHEC. Why is this?
What are the other benefits of becoming an MHEC member?
Can vendors solicit me?
Do I need to order a certain dollar amount to get the discounts?
Is the library limited to only working with one vendor per contract?
How long are the contracts in effect?
I still have questions. Who do I talk to?

General Purchasing Cooperting Questions

Who is MHEC?

The Massachusetts Higher Education Purchasing Consortium (“MHEC”) was established under Massachusetts State Law (Ch. 15A, € 24A) to provide efficiencies and cost savings to institutions of higher education. With a recent change to MHEC’s bylaws, membership in MHEC is now open to public and private colleges and universities, not for profit charter, technical and vocational schools, municipalities, including elementary and secondary schools and not for profit educational organizations located in New England (Massachusetts, Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Connecticut and Rhode Island). For more information, please review MHEC’s history.

MHEC has prepared a video providing additional information on MHEC and its offerings.

What is MLS’ relationship with MHEC?

The Massachusetts Library System is collaborating with the Massachusetts Higher Education Consortium to provide a new Cooperative Purchasing Program. This partnership will result in MLS members joining MHEC to take advantage of cooperative pricing for the procurement of library materials and supplies. Additionally, members will be able to take advantage of all of MHEC’s contracts in order to realize even larger savings for items previously not covered under the MLS Cooperative Purchasing contracts.

What happened to our MARLS contracts?

With the exception of general office supplies, MLS extended its library supplies contracts through December 31, 2012 to ensure there was no gap in discounts for Massachusetts libraries. As of January 1, 2013, library supplies are covered under MHEC contract number L50.

MLS also extended its library materials contracts through December 31, 2012 to ensure there was no gap in discounts for Massachusetts libraries. As of January 1, 2013, library materials are covered under MHEC contract number L51.

The MARLS contracts for general office supplies through Quill and WB Mason have been extended to June 30, 2013. MHEC will be negotiating new general office supply contracts in Spring 2013 which will replace the MARLS contracts.

What about non-library specific contracts, such as office supplies?

Office supplies through WB Mason and Quill will continue to the end of the contract term (June 30, 2013) and be replaced by a supplies contract through MHEC. MHEC offers general office supplies on contract number F15 through numerous vendors, including Staples. Discounts through these vendors are available to all MHEC members.

Does my library need to be a member?

Your library does not need to be a member of MHEC to use the library contracts. As a member of MLS, you are authorized to use the library contracts for purchases of library related materials. However, by becoming a member of MHEC, you also gain access to contracts for other items not previously offered, such as computers, audio/visual equipment, etc. There is no cost for membership. Should you have any questions about membership, contact information is available on the MHEC website.

Some MLS member libraries, such as for-profit private institutions, may not qualify to become a MHEC members; however you will still be able to receive discounts as MLS members. Please contact MLS for additional information if you find you do not qualify as an MHEC member.

What if my school district or town/city is already an MHEC member?

If your school district or town/city is already an MHEC member, then your library can access the MHEC website under that membership. You must still register to use the website, however you do not need to first complete the membership application. A list of MHEC members can be found on the MHEC website.

Should you have any questions about membership, contact information is also available on their website.

For information on registering to use the MHEC website, please see How do I register to use the MHEC website once my library becomes a member?

How do I find out if my school district or town/city is already an MHEC member?

A list of MHEC members can be found on the MHEC website or you can contact MHEC directly. To find out if your school district or town/city is already a member of MHEC, please visit the MHEC website.

If my school district or town/city is not a member, how do I sign up?

To become a member of MHEC you will need to complete the MHEC member application. There is no membership fee to join. You will receive a welcome email and packet when you are accepted. This may take 24-48 hours to process.

What if my town/city/district has questions about the use of MHEC contracts by municipalities?

Information, including the General Law allowing schools and municipalities to use public procurement units such as MHEC, as well as the Inspector General’s opinion on the new law, is available on the MHEC website. For additional questions about using MHEC contracts, contact information for the Inspector General is also available.

How do I register to use the MHEC website once my library becomes a member?

Once your library is a member of MHEC, you need to register with a username and password to access the contracts through the MHEC website. Please visit the MHEC website and fill out the online registration form. Once you have completed the form, complete the registration by clicking the register button at the bottom left of the form. Now you are able to start searching the database.

MHEC provides a “Getting Started Tutorial”, please go here to access it.

How do I search the MHEC website for contracts?

You can search the database by contract number, vendor, brand or product category. To start your search you will click on Search/search the databases from the MHEC website home page.

MHEC offers training videos to assist you in searching the databases.

Does MLS or MHEC provide training on how to use the contracts?

MHEC and MLS have provided joint training sessions in the past targeted at libraries and will continue to do so on an annual basis should demand still warrant. Additionally, MHEC provides similar training available to all of its members. MHEC will announce dates for training to all members via their email communications.

I noticed some discounts are not as good as the MARLS contracts. Why is this?

You may notice that some discounts do not seem as good as the MARLS contracts. The MARLS contracts were nearly three years old and would have been rebid in the Spring 2013. Due to the age of the MARLS contracts and the volatility of pricing for some items, we expected to see some cost increases.

Additionally, the MARLS contracts were focused on net pricing for a limited number of items. The MHEC contracts focus on catalog-wide discounts. As a result you may see higher discounts for some items and lower discounts for others. MHEC and MLS looked carefully at the pricing and believe that overall discounts for members will on average be better than what was offered through the MARLS contracts.

I noticed some vendors we used to use are not contracted with MHEC. Why is this?

As with any bid process, when you solicit bids, you gain new vendors and lose some old vendors. Some vendors previously on contract may not have been able to fulfill the requirements of the new contract terms or they may have chosen not to bid due to low sales on the previous contracts.

If there are any vendors you would like to see included next time the contracts go out for bids, we suggest you contact your local sales representative to emphasize the importance of being a participating vendor on the cooperative purchasing contracts.

What are the other benefits to becoming an MHEC member?

MHEC’s core competency is negotiating and managing cooperative purchasing contracts. As a result, they are able to solicit more comprehensive contracts for a broader category of products than MLS was able. By becoming an MHEC member, your library will have access to discounts on library materials and supplies, and will also be able to take advantage of MHEC’s full range of contracts.

Additionally, discounts through certain vendors may also be available to your library staff for personal purchases. More information on these added benefits can be found at the following links:

Added Benefits by Vendor
Added Benefits by Contract

To make sure you are following your place of businesses procurement laws please be sure to check the Disclaimer, review your organization’s policies and procedures and, if applicable, check on MA code of ethics for extended benefits to faculty and staff. Remember, staff/faculty will be subject to state taxes as determined by MA law, as well as contract terms specific contract terms.

Can vendors solicit me?

Vendors can solicit you. Vendors are provided a complete list of MHEC members with the contracts at award, and because the vendor has been awarded a contract there is a certain expectation that the members will purchase some of their products. Vendors are not provided email addresses or individual contact information. They do have access to a list of member institutions and may contact institutions via publicly available information to establish what goods and services they can provide to benefit the institution through the contracts. Vendors under contract realize that they must earn your business through price, performance and quality and by contacting you will work to help you understand what they can offer and how they can support you.

Do I need to order a certain dollar amount to get the discounts?

In most cases, there is no minimum order amount. However, to receive free shipping, some vendors may require a minimum amount. MHEC contracts are different than the previous MARLS contracts because there is no “preferred” vendor based on yearly pledged amounts spent from libraries.

Is the library limited to only working with one vendor per contract?

No, libraries can order from any vendor under the contract. In some cases, libraries will want to use certain vendors for better discount pricing. We do encourage you to look at all the vendors and what they provide, as well as the discounts they offer on their products.

How long are the contracts in effect?

Each contract is for three years. For specific information on all MHEC contract start and end dates, please visit their Contracts List Page. Library contracts can be located in the “L” section of the list.

I still have questions. Who do I talk to?

MLS contacts
MLS Telephone number: 1-866-627-7228
Catherine Utt, ext. 302 or email: catherine@masslibsystem.org
Shirley MacLean, ext. 130 or email: smaclean@masslibsystem.org

MHEC contacts
Paul Coute (General Info), 413-577-2201 or email: pcoute@mhec.net
Jennifer LaPointe (New Member and Registration Info), 413-545-4993 or email: jlapointe@mhec.net