Events, Projects - 17 July 2017

“Wash & Learn”: Creating Pop-Up Learning Spaces in Laundromats in the Bronx

Libraries Without Borders (BSF) has partnered with The DreamYard Project and the LaundryCares Foundation to launch “Wash & Learn,” a summer learning program that creates pop-up library spaces inside laundromats throughout the Bronx. The “Wash & Learn” program transforms laundromats into informal learning spaces where local residents can access high-quality literacy and professional development materials as they wait for their clothes to wash and dry.

BSF decided to launch the “Wash & Learn” program in Morrisania, the poorest district in the Bronx, itself the poorest borough in New York City. “This […] is a neighborhood of low-income people who are living paycheck to paycheck, hoping that their children can receive some education and eventually get a good paying job so that the family can move up in the socioeconomic ladder,” says local resident, Rafael Gonzalez.

In an effort to expand opportunities for local residents, BSF created a pop-up library and learning space inside Lavanderia Express IV, a laundromat located in the heart of Morrisania. “The neighborhood laundromat serves as an unconventional – but effective – venue for connecting valuable library resources […] in a place where families gather each and every week to take care of their laundry needs,” says Brian Wallace, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Coin Laundry Association.

Inside the laundromat, we installed a digital server known as the KoomBook, which creates a Wifi hotspot that lets patrons access preloaded educational content. The content has been carefully curated by BSF in partnership with local organizations and the Morrisania Branch of the New York Public Library. As community needs change, BSF’s content team will continuously update and adapt the digital library to ensure materials reflect these new realities.

In addition to the digital library, facilitators will be present at the laundromat to help patrons navigate the KoomBook’s resources. These facilitators are young people from the community who were selected by The DreamYard Project. They are are managed by Rudy Blanco, the school’s technology coordinator, and mentor to DreamYard Prep students past and present. The 13 facilitators have been trained by BSF staff to help patrons make the best use of the digital library’s content. They will also direct patrons to enrichment opportunities at the New York Public Library (NYPL), namely its summer reading program. In this way, the “Wash & Learn” program will also give local youth the opportunity to develop skills that are essential for future success — from hard skills like creating a project timeline or securing an MOU, to soft skills like problem-solving, adaptive thinking and interpersonal communication.

BSF will continue to work closely with community nonprofits, small businesses and local library branches in the Bronx to ensure the “Wash & Learn” program is a success. “We are committed to providing low-income families with opportunities to access literacy and professional development tools at times and places that are convenient and accessible,” says Allister Chang, Executive Director of Libraries Without Borders. “And we’ll keep working and innovating with our local partners to ensure that we are responsive to community needs.”

For more information:

The program takes place on Fridays and Saturdays from 10am-3pm. To set up a time to visit Lavanderia Express IV, located at 756 St Ann’s Ave, Bronx, NY 10456, please contact: Katherine Trujillo, Director of Communications & Advocacy at Libraries Without Borders at ktrujillo@librarieswithoutborders.org.

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