Events, Projects - 18 July 2017

From Libraries to Laundromats: Learning in Non-Traditional Spaces in Detroit

Libraries Without Borders (BSF) has launched “Wash & Learn,” a summer learning program that creates pop-up library spaces in laundromats throughout Detroit. In partnership with the Knight Foundation, the United Way of Southeast Michigan, Brilliant Detroit, the Parkman Branch of the Detroit Public Library, the Mayor’s Office of the City of Detroit, and the LaundryCares Foundation, this program transforms laundromats into informal learning spaces where patrons can access high-quality early learning and literacy materials as they wait for their clothes to wash and dry.  

Libraries Without Borders has equipped each laundromat with a digital library server known as the KoomBook. The KoomBook creates a WiFi hotspot that laundromat patrons can use to access pre-loaded educational content at any hour of the day. With the help of partnering organizations, BSF has curated materials customized to meet the needs of participating patterns in the “Wash & Learn” program. These local partners will also help us keep the pulse on the changing needs of the communities we are serving at each laundromat, enabling us to update and adapt accordingly.

Over the summer, our local partners will take turns staffing the KoomBook program. The Parkman Branch will offer a wide range of services and facilities. Qumisha Goss, a librarian at the Parkman Branch, is “hopeful that the Wash & Learn” program will […] introduce families to the resources available at the Detroit Public Library. Early learning activities that have been adapted to this non-traditional learning environment. Cindy Eggleton, the Co-Founder and CEO of Brilliant Detroit, believes an approach that “meets families where they are to offer resources and support is critical to building kid success.”

As the program evolves, we anticipate our partners will find new ways to leverage the KoomBook technology and laundromat space. In fact, some of our partners have already started using the KoomBook, which is available 24 hours a day with or without facilitation, to implement their own early literacy programs. Stacy Lorne, a Detroit-native who serves as the coordinator for this program, believes these initiatives reflect the broader support for our allies, and the prospect that the ‘Wash & Learn’ program could gain enough momentum to become a permanent fixture in the community. ”

By continuously innovating – from how we forge community partnerships to how we staff our programs – Libraries without borders to expand the “Wash & Learn” model to cities across the United States.