Community Impact

Libraries Without Borders US takes San Antonio’s digital divide head-on

Google Fiber works with incredible partners across the country working to make digital equity a reality in our communities. Back in 2019, we shared the innovative work of Libraries Without Borders US (LWB US) in San Antonio, TX, and now we’re thrilled to welcome Victoria Becker, Communications and Engagement Associate, to provide an update on those efforts through the pandemic and beyond. LWB US is a non-profit organization that delivers access to information, education, and cultural resources. From parks in Baltimore to laundromats in San Antonio, LWB US designs innovative tools and programs that meet people where they are with the resources they need most.

Libraries Without Borders US (LWB US) has been working to promote access to information in underserved communities across the country since 2015. Fundamental to our work is designing and implementing innovative programs that reimagine libraries, often by transforming nontraditional spaces into hubs for community learning and engagement. With this mission in mind, we took our work to the laundromat, prompting the birth of the Wash and Learn Initiative (WALI).

Why laundromats? The average laundromat user has an income of $28,000; 1 in 4 individuals in this income bracket do not have access to broadband internet. By partnering with local libraries and organizations, LWB US brings not only books, computers, and internet connection directly to laundromats, but also digital skills trainings and curated resources that promote literacy, digital access, health education, legal information, and other issues. In doing this, LWB US could ensure that community members had easy access to critical resources, all while doing their weekly wash.

In March 2020, with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, we completely reimagined our work and shifted gears in response to swiftly growing needs. We designed and implemented the ConnectED Technology Kit program: an initiative to provide our constituents with a backpack equipped with a laptop, mobile hotspot, and a curated educational resource packet to be used at home. Last year, LWB US distributed over 120 kits to families in San Antonio outside Wash and Learn Initiative laundromats, including our newest WALI laundromat Laundry Rey’s.

We’re building on the work we did last year outside by bringing programming back inside. LWB US recently reinstalled the bookshelf at Laundry Rey’s, the first hint of WALI reinstall. With the support of Google Fiber, we are able to safely reimplement programming in our San Antonio WALI laundromats to continue to serve our community. Check out the video below see this incredible program up close and hear from our staff and stakeholders:

For more information about WALI or LWB in San Antonio, contact Lisa Alvarenga, our San Antonio Project Coordinator.

Posted by Victoria Becker, Communications and Engagement Associate, Libraries without Borders -US.

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