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Working With a Developmental Partner

Mid-Continent Public Library

Innovation Summary

Mid-Continent Public Library developed a strategic partnership with a local organization that employs adults with disabilities to outsource the creation of die cuts used for many youth programs.

Problem Statement

The manual production of nearly a quarter million die cuts was a costly and timely endeavor for a library system with 30 branches. Used for library storytimes, bulletin boards, and our highly popular Summer Reading Program, MCPL has a collection of over 800 dies ranging from animal and transportation shapes to holiday and seasonal shapes. Due to high volumes and time-sensitive demands, the Library was unable to order pre-made die cuts. Staff in two departments were needed to help produce nearly 1,000 die cuts per day at peak times. When factoring in this staff time, die cuts that should cost no more than a couple of pennies were costing the Library nearly twelve cents each. MCPL was producing 250,000 dies at a (actual and opportunity) cost of $58,000 a year to meet its demand.


MCPL partnered with Southeast Enterprises to take on the die cut operation. Southeast Enterprises is a nonprofit organization that provides Jackson County, Missouri citizens with disabilities challenging employment opportunities. Their mission is to help these capable adults develop and capitalize on their motivation, confidence, spirit, and determination by obtaining production contracts from area businesses. Partnering with Southeast Enterprises allowed the Library to reclaim staff time, save significant dollars, and meet the organization’s goal of finding partnerships that make our community a better place. MCPL simply added the production facility to one of our delivery routes, and branches retained the ability to receive their die cut orders within a couple of days.


The partnership with Southeast Enterprises is nearly seamless and requires very little labor on the Library’s behalf. Nearly all dies and a significant quantity of paper are housed at the Southeast facility. Two Southeast employees are dedicated to the Library’s operation, and they regularly turn around jobs ahead of schedule. The last 250,000 die cuts produced for MCPL resulted in a cost of about $5,500 or a little less than 10% of the Library’s previous cost to do the same. The partnership remains successful for Southeast Enterprises as well. The organization even recognized MCPL for its significant contribution to Southeast’s growth. The Library continues to look for new collaborators, and uses the Southeast Enterprises partnership as a model for mutually beneficial relationships in the community.