The Wash and Learn Initiative & the Laundry and Literacy Coalition / by Allister Chang

A Look Back and a Step Forward

In 2016, LWB launched the Wash and Learn Initiative, known as Wash & Learn or WALI. The program seeks to turn laundromats into branches of the public library, complete with all the resources that a library offers, from storytime to WiFi, computers, and even social services. To date, LWB has helped to transform laundromats into media and community centers in eight states, including Michigan, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Texas, California, New York, and North Carolina. These Wash and Learn sites offer so much more than just access to books or computers — they serve as dynamic spaces for early literacy, health education, or digital inclusion.  

Early learning and literacy are critical to the success of the Wash and Learn Initiative, which is why in 2017, LWB co-founded the Laundry and Literacy Coalition together with Too Small to Fail of the Clinton Foundation and the LaundryCares Foundation, the charitable arm of the national Coin Laundry Association. After co-leading two national LaundryCares Literacy Summits in Chicago and working together to envision and coordinate the first independent evaluation on laundromat learning, LWB and its partners created a new framework to enable hundreds, even thousands, of laundromat owners and early childhood organizations across the country to scale similar programs in their communities.

Through Wash and Learn, LWB ensures that the resources and best-practices garnered from the Laundry and Literacy Coalition are not confined to a conference room or a website. The dynamic, impactful programs LWB has launched at laundromats across the country are the realization of this commitment.  Looking ahead, LWB will double down on its promise to train and support libraries, community organizations, and volunteer associations as they transform laundromats into spaces of community development and learning. With deep appreciation for what we have created nationally and a renewed focus on the local goals of Wash and Learn, we are stepping down from our role as a lead coordinator for the annual LaundryCares Literacy Summit. We will continue to support the Laundry and Literacy Coalition as a member organization and as liaisons between national efforts and the local communities where this work is needed most.

LWB aims to transform everyday spaces, like laundromats, into avenues of lifelong learning, where residents have access to books, computers, and curated programs that promote literacy, digital skills, health education, legal information, and other issues critical to our democracy. Like any public library, these everyday spaces have become mainstays in the community, places that foster trust among residents and promote civic engagement. At the same time, the scope is national.  With new programs in cities like Baltimore, San Antonio, and Oakland, LWB is thrilled to continue growing these efforts both near and far and to turning open-source tools and resources into local impact.

Sincerely,

Adam Echelman

Executive Director

Libraries Without Borders