On May 12, Giant Wash Coin Laundry, located in St. Paul, Minn., kicked off a new Wash & Learn program, in conjunction with a free laundry day at the store. The laundromat hosted the free laundry event in celebration of the new program, offering community members free washing and drying. In addition, all attendees had opportunities to participate in librarian-lead learning workshops and take home free books and educational resources.
“Wash & Learn is an example of the forward-thinking ideas and partnerships we intend to advance throughout St. Paul,” said Mayor Melvin Carter III. “Meeting people where they are with library programs, materials, and resources makes perfect sense. It is through these unique partnerships and simple solutions that we build a city that works for all of us.”
Saint Paul Public Library partnered with Minnesota State Library Services and Libraries Without Borders – a national nonprofit based in Washington, D.C. – to launch Wash & Learn at Giant Wash. The program aims to extend SPPL’s efforts to close the digital divide among residents of the city. Libraries Without Borders will install laptops and Wi-Fi hotspots at the laundromat, alongside bookshelves with materials customers can read on site or check out and take home.
“A lot of families have told us they don’t participate in library programs because they have unpredictable work schedules and can’t afford to miss a shift,” said Allister Chang, executive director of Libraries Without Borders. “Wash & Learn reduces these barriers because it brings the library to a location they visit weekly. It helps families knock out three birds with one stone: wash clothes, complete a professional development program, and help children develop early literacy skills.”
“This is a way to meet people when they have some downtime, and we can bring them resources so that they can play and they can learn, and they can maybe get some work done,” explained Catherine Penkert, director of the St. Paul library system.
SPPL librarians will work on site at Giant Wash a few hours per week to teach workplace skills, provide “story time” for children, and answer questions. These programs are scheduled to run through early October.
With regard to the laundry portion of this event, 7,420 pounds of laundry were washed and dried that day, with the help of more than 40 volunteers on site. In addition, more than 1,000 boxes of Vend-Rite laundry chemicals and over 50 Minnesota Chemical delicates bags were given out.
“We want to express a heartfelt thank you,” said Daryl and Lisa Johnson, owners of Giant Wash. “All of you came together and gave of your time and talents without reservation, and you made this event a tremendous success. We could not have done it without you, and a simple thank you seems inadequate.”
As for the literacy aspect of the day, the store owners were first introduced to LWB by the Coin Laundry Association’s LaundryCares Foundation.
“It’s amazing to think that you can change people’s lives through a load of laundry,” the Johnsons explained. “We have volunteered at other free laundry days across the country, and it was time to do one at home. It only made sense to partner with LWB and help impact literacy issues at the same time. It’s humbling to be a part of this.
“There was a ton of excitement and activity for all ages, including story time, button making and face painting. The library volunteers did an amazing job of entertaining the kids and the kids at heart all day.”
“I’m excited to see this terrific partnership launch,” said Jennifer Nelson, the State Librarian of Minnesota. “There are so many ways people in Minnesota can connect with libraries, and this novel form of outreach promises to help instill the value of open and equitable access to information across the state.”