United States

Our Mission

Over the past 30 years, inequality has skyrocketed in the United States, leading to growing gaps in education and healthcare, declining living standards, and increasing incarceration rates — particularly for communities of color. At Libraries Without Borders, we expand access to information, education and cultural resources to underserved communities  across the United States and its territories. We enable communities to gain the crucial skills they seek by meeting people where they are and addressing the issues most relevant to their lives. We recognize that expanding access to information is essential in promoting literacy, closing the digital divide, promoting health, combating poverty, and cultivating an informed and engaged society where all people are included and encouraged to fully participate.

Our approach

To provide disadvantaged families with opportunities for lifelong learning, we create new technologies, spark new collaborations between existing community organizations, and share best practices on curating and sharing information with partners in order to scale successful programs. 

Our priorities include:

  • Providing formal and informal educational support to low-income youth in an effort to reduce disparities in academic achievement
  • Creating spaces where users can improve their reading, writing and computer skills. We have achieved this by partnering with libraries, schools, tutoring programs and local nonprofits to operate in housing lobbies, laundromats, public parks, and a variety of public and re-purposed spaces
  • Offering pathways for professional development to poor and vulnerable adults
  • Advocating for the universal right of children to access quality education.

More About Our Projects


Sharing Legal Information across Providence, Rhode Island

Objective

Legal Literacy Initiative


Start date

June 2018


Status

Ongoing


Together with the Providence Community Library and the Dorcas International Institute of Rhode Island, Libraries Without Borders launched the Legal Literacy Initiative to bring library services and legal resources to more residents in Olneyville, a low-income neighborhood in Providence. We run workshops at a flea market, a laundromat, a public housing development, a liquor store, and a bus station. To date, we have served over 100 individuals, connecting families with attorneys, signing individuals up for library cards, and facilitating conversations on issues pertinent to this community.

Ideas Box: Libraries Foster Resiliency in Puerto Rico

Objective


Start date

March 2018


Status

Ongoing


Following the announcement of over 280 schools closures across the island in the wake of Hurricanes Maria and Irma, we amped up our efforts to provide avenues for informal learning, long-term capacity building, and sustainable recovery. Through our pop-up, mobile library, the Ideas Box, Libraries Without Borders has been transforming closed and abandoned public buildings and community centers in Loiza, Isabella, and San Juan into dynamic spaces of learning and resilience. Workshops have focused on issues ranging from community mapping, social enterprise,  and design thinking to marine health, 3D printing, and blockchain for social change.

Laundromats & Literacy in Detroit

Objective

WALI: The Wash & Learn Initiative


Start date

2016


Status

Ongoing


In a city where 40 percent of the population is functionally illiterate, access to information is an issue of survival. The Wash & Learn Initiative began in Detroit as a collaboration with the Parkman Branch of the Detroit Public Library in order to reach low-income families outside the library. Together, we re-designed laundromats as classrooms for story-time, arts & crafts, and digital literacy. We partnered with Brilliant Detroit to expand the scope of our programs. Today, we operate in 3 laundromats, serving more than 1,000 children across the city.

Re-Imagining Library Spaces Across Minnesota

Objective

To transform laundromats into branches of the public library


Start date

April 2017


Status

Ongoing


Libraries Without Borders partnered with the State Library of Minnesota and four library systems – Saint Paul, Scott, Anoka, and Marshall-Lyons – in order to redesign outreach services . These efforts build on a prior collaboration with Brainerd County and the National Network of Libraries of Medicine to understand how communities access to health information. Like our work in Detroit and Allegheny County, we focused on laundromats, where we trained librarians to facilitate workshops on issues of health, education, and workforce development,

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