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An estimated 22 million people live in manufactured housing communities (MHCs) across the country, representing the largest sector of non-subsidized, affordable housing in the United States. Residents of these communities often include single mothers and recent immigrants, young families on limited income, and retirees. With an income half the national average, many of these communities face significant obstacles in accessing the Internet—for work, education, and long-distance social relations, among other things.
Much like the laundromats where Libraries Without Borders US organizes the Wash and Learn Initiative (WALI), manufactured housing communities (MHCs) serve as a unique place to reach low-income, under-resourced families. By repurposing a non-traditional space such as the storm shelter, the Manufactured Housing Initiative targets rural communities struggling to access reliable information, education, and cultural resources. The Manufactured Housing Initiative will be piloted at the Park Plaza Cooperative in Fridley, Minnesota in late 2020 and will transform the Co-op’s storm shelter into a learning and digital literacy hub that amplifies the reach of an anchor institution—the public library.
The Manufactured Housing Initiative is a partnership between Libraries Without Borders US, manufactured housing communities, and public libraries that brings WiFi connections, books, art materials, computers, and iPads loaded with educational and career-focused resources to a repurposed storm shelter. The model for this program is our successful Wash and Learn Initiative (WALI), which transforms laundromats into libraries and learning hubs in cities across the US.
In 2019, the Park Plaza Cooperative in Fridley, MN partnered with LWB US to establish a community library and learning hub in a local storm shelter. In the summer of 2020, the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) awarded LWB US a grant to develop a literacy and digital literacy hub in the Park Plaza Cooperative. With support from the Minnesota Department of Education, LWB US is transforming its storm shelter into a community hub where residents of all ages can participate in digital literacy workshops, get critical information about health and nutrition, and even access legal support. Building out the accessibility of this space, the Anoka County Library has committed to hosting hours of storytime, English Language Learning courses, STEM activities, and digital literacy workshops in the learning hub. LWB US has also received funding from the Blandin Foundation to support the scalability of this model to rural areas of Minnesota.
LWB US intends to scale this pilot program to other MHCs across the United States, building partnerships between libraries and MHCs, one repurposed space at a time.
For questions and more information, please contact LWB US Development Coordinator Sarah Baron at firstname.lastname@example.org.