- 23 August 2018

Wash and Learn Initiative (WALI)

Surmounting Barriers to Learning

Laundromats provide an ideal space to engage with low-income families. Clients return weekly and wait an average of 90 minutes for their clothes to wash and dry. Laundromats are open almost 24/7, providing a space to learn even after the library has closed. To date, LWB has worked in partnership with  local organizations as well as federal, state, and local libraries to design, implement, and evaluate Wash & Learn programs across 7 different states: Minnesota, Michigan, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New York, Washington DC, and Rhode Island. In each location, we install a curated media center, complete with books and computers, while training librarians and local organizations how to further activate the laundromat spaces with in-person programming that is fun and participatory. Together with the library, we adapt the resources at each laundromat to address the particular but varied needs of the families at each location, e.g. story-time events for children, legal resources for vulnerable tenants. We partner with the Coin Laundry Association, a national network of laundromat owners, to identify participating laundromats and to ensure that these small businesses take pride in this work and foster its growth.

Outputs and Outcomes

We track how laundromat learning spaces enable individuals to connect with local organizations, either by signing up for a library card, enrolling in an after-school education program, or making an appointment with a legal, medical, or financial provider. We monitor the number of everyday users who visit the laundromat to browse educational resources online. Programs typically engage 30 individuals a day.