At this year’s MLA Annual Conference we tried something new. In an effort to assist a burgeoning library project in need of funding and at the same time raise funds for MLA Scholarships, the Library SOUP project was launched. Similar to a go-fund-me project, conference attendees voted for the winning project idea with the purchase of a $10 ticket. Half of the ticket price went to the Library SOUP award and the other half to MLA's scholarship fund.
The 2016 Annual Conference Work Group picked the top five contestants and in an American Idol-style event, those contenders made a short presentation to convince the audience of why their project should be chosen. A live vote then determined the winner. All five projects were outstanding examples of librarian creativity and community service. The presentations were lively and fun and it was not easy to choose.
The winner was Jessica Lee-Cullin of the East Lansing Public Library, and her Wee Free Pantry earned $630. Public libraries frequently serve as daytime shelters for homeless individuals, as well as hubs of information for those in dire economic straits. As such, it makes a prime location for funneling services and goods designed to benefit these populations, particularly the children of struggling families who are unable to take advantage of food banks and crisis services designed for adult applicants. The East Lansing Public Library is seeking to install a pantry of nonperishable food items and personal hygiene products on library grounds. The East Lansing Public Library is dedicated to providing the resources for people to gather and share information and ideas to enrich lives and foster community. We believe in not only providing materials unavailable to our most disenfranchised patrons, but also in empowering their neighbors to contribute to the collective well-being of the community.
Congratulations to Jessica and thank you to all the Library SOUP contestants and voters. The MLA scholarship fund also received $630 to use for future program scholarships.
The four runner-up programs were Books on Bikes by Beth Sheridan, Orion Township Public Library; Citizens of Tomorrow by Anne Similuk, Rochester Hills Public Library; STEAM Ahead, Anne Belanger, Presque Isle District Library; and Teen Writers Journey, Jeffery Babbitt, Van Buren District Library.
The genesis of Library SOUP came from keynote speaker Amy Kaherl and her Detroit SOUP. Detroit SOUP is a microgranting dinner that celebrates creative projects in the city and has helped Detroiters give back more than $125,000 towards art, social justice, social entrepreneurs, education, technology and urban agriculture in the city. Detroit SOUP has been called a relational hub bringing together various creative communities, a forum for critical but accessible discussion and an opportunity to support creative people in Detroit. In her inspiring talk, Amy focused on the idea of community and democracy, making SOUP a way to create a safe space where everyone’s voice was heard and the playing field was leveled.
Be sure to mark your calendar for next year’s annual conference October 18-20, 2017 when we are back in Lansing. We will once again offer Library SOUP, so start thinking about your project now.
Also, you can find many of the handouts for the 2016 conference sessions on the MLA website www.milibraries.org.