ELPL Hopes to Win USA Today Grant for PopUp Library

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Wednesday, April 19, 2017, 11:53 am
Sheila Taylor

Above: Rendering of a Popup Library by Ashley Julien

PopUps are popping up in towns and neighborhoods across the country. They might provide hot dogs at a game, sell souvenirs at a fair, or...bring books to your curb. It is one of these, a PopUp library, that East Lansing Public Library (ELPL) wants to acquire for the community.

Designed and operated like a food wagon, and travelling no faster than 35 mph, a PopUp Library brings books to children and adults like a Good Humor man delivers ice cream. ELPL envisions, for example, going into underserved neighborhoods, showing up at street fairs, and joining other vendors at farmers' markets with a PopUp stuffed with books -- books for loan, maybe used books for pennies, books to open the world.

The Library estimates that purchasing, stocking, and operating a PopUp library will cost $50,000 or more. This is a hefty cost. Still, PopUps are preferable to bookmobiles, which take up more space, are less easily maneuvered, cost more to run, and require more staffing, reasons why many community libraries no longer operate them.

A novel means for funding a library PopUp in East Lansing has, well...popped up. This is a possible grant award from the USA Today "A Community Thrives" contest, established to support simple ideas that can be quickly and easily implemented and have community support. The community support is demonstrated by "votes" for the various project ideas which were chosen to compete in the contest. "A Community Thrives" was open to non-profits and, to by-pass the onerous requirements for most grants, required only the submission of a video portraying a project idea and making the case for it.

ELPL librarian Phyllis Thode, with the help of other staff, produced a video that was chosen for entry in the contest. This is a significant accomplishment; advancing further in the contest will now depend upon garnering votes. Ten videos nationwide, in each of three categories - Health and Wellness, Education, or Arts and Culture - will constitute the pool from which contest judges will choose projects to be awarded $600,000 in grants of $50,00 to $100,000 each.

The video Thode produced is in the Arts and Culture category. It emphasizes the outreach focus of ELPL and shows people engaged in Library programs which exemplify this -- teens in The Maker Studio, immigrants learning English, and so forth. Thode says the greatest challenge was having just three minutes in the video to describe how a PopUp will allow ELPL to reach further and deeper into the community.

Garnering sufficient votes and receiving a “Community Thrives” grant would help the PopUp dream come true more quickly. But sooner or later, the Library will realize this dream for the community. There's more than one way the public can help the Library achieve its dream of owning and operating a PopUp.

Most immediately people can attend Books, Bites, and Bids this coming Friday evening at the Library. This annual event is fun for the whole family. It includes live music, activities for children, food and drinks, and a silent auction. ELPL designates a project goal for each Books Bites, and Bids event, and this year it is the PopUp Library.

People who support Friends of the East Lansing Public Library (FOELPL) also support Library programs and projects. In the contest video, the contribution of FOELPL to the library is mentioned up front, citing literacy programs and the Social Justice Reading project for teens as examples of what FOEPL supports.

FOELPL raises funds by selling used books, original artwork, handmade objects and other items from the Friendshop just inside the main entrance of the Library. FOELPL also accepts donations, and funds they raise by whatever means are donated to the Library. A stated part of FOELPL's mission is to increase literacy and love of reading. They are particularly enthusiastic about the PopUp, a project that will help achieve these aims.

You can support the Friends by coming in to the Friendshop and buying books, books, books - or by sending them your donation.

And finally, your votes in the "Community Thrives" Contest can help. Any one person can vote here once each day through May 12th for the library's Pop Up project. You can also advise your social network to vote. Thode points out that the top ten vote-getters in each category are advanced to the final judging and says, "That is why it is imperative that we get votes from across the country."

The PopUp library is intended for the community and the community can make it happen.

Books, Bytes, and Bids
Friday, April 21, 5:30-9:00pm
East Lansing Public Library
950 Abbot Road
East Lansing 48823
$30 per person, $60 for families

Friends of the East Lansing Public Library
Marsha's Friendshop
Inside main door of East Lansing Public Library
Open during library hours
Used books for 25 cents, 50 cents, $1.00
More expensive books at a fraction of the Amazon price
Art and other items for sale

Make donations to FOELPL
C/O East Lansing Public Library
950 Abbot Road
East Lansing, MI 48823

Vote in the USA Today "A Community Thrives Contest”


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