Shakopee residents can visit Scott County Library’s “Wash and Learn” at Giant Wash Coin Laundry on 401 First Ave. W every Monday night from 6 to 8 p.m.
The program has brought a bookshelf and a pair of computers to the laundromat on a six-week pilot program sponsored by the nonprofit Libraries Without Borders.
“It’s a way to reach folks who don’t usually come into the library,” said Paula Keith, the Scott County librarian in charge of the program. “I like coming in and seeing the books scattered about because I know people have been reading them,” she said.
Most of the book are children’s books, with some Spanish and Somali translations to appeal to a broader audience. The books are generally from donations, library overstock or books that are old and don’t get read often at the library.
Another aspect of the “Wash and Learn” program is providing information. The computers have access to an informational website that answers Shakopee residents’ frequently asked questions.
Libraries Without Borders installed laptops and WiFi hotspots at the laundromat, and books customers can read or take home.
“It’s not just about building a bookshelf in a laundromat,” said Allister Chang, executive director of Libraries Without Borders, in a press release. “It’s about convening new public private partnerships to share local expertise at locations where community members already gather.”
In 2015, Libraries Without Borders began building pop-up library programs in public parks, housing lobbies, legal aid waiting rooms, train stations, farmers markets and food pantries.
“One day, we happened to set up near a laundromat and received higher demand than we had prepared for. We brought more books and more facilitators the next day, eventually customizing the program with the Coin Laundry Association to become a special program we’ve now called Wash and Learn," Chang said.
Daryl Johnson, owner of Giant Wash, said he'd volunteered at other free laundry days across the country and decided it was time to do one at home.
“It’s amazing to think that you can change people’s lives through a load of laundry,” he said in the release. "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.”
“Wash and Learn” started in Shakopee May 14 and will be open for about two more weeks, but Keith hopes the program can be extended through the summer.