Eau Claire laundromat libraries

L.E. Phillips Memorial Public Library partners with laundromats around Eau Claire to provide small libraries

Delaney Reed (She/Her)

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There+are+seven+laundromats+around+the+Eau+Claire+area+that+are+providing+libraries.+Each+laundromat+has+a+bin+with+different+books+in+English%2C+Spanish+and+Hmong+that+are+intended+for+children+ages+0+to+8.+

Delaney Reed

There are seven laundromats around the Eau Claire area that are providing libraries. Each laundromat has a bin with different books in English, Spanish and Hmong that are intended for children ages 0 to 8.

L.E. Phillips Memorial Public Library in Eau Claire has created a program that partners with local laundromats to provide children books they can either read at the laundromat or take home.  

Eau Claire Laundromat Libraries is an outreach program that was developed together by Jerissa Koenig, the early literacy outreach librarian, and Yia Lor, the human development and relationships educator at UW-Madison Division of Extension Eau Claire County. 

“This project was made possible by a grant from The Women’s Giving Circle Fund of the Eau Claire Community Foundation,” Koenig said. 

Books were also donated by the United Way of Greater Chippewa Valley and Too Small to Fail, in honor of Kari Stroede, according to Koenig. 

There are seven laundromats around the Eau Claire area that are providing libraries. Each laundromat has a bin with different books in English, Spanish and Hmong that are intended for children ages 0 to 8. 

“These books are provided so that children can see themselves reflected in stories and their adults can engage in reading with them in a language they speak at home,” Lor said. 

Both Koenig and Lor said the laundromats they have partnered with have said these are common languages they have heard spoken by customers. This helped them decide what types of books and languages to provide. 

“Each library also contains a binder with information for parents and caregivers about early literacy and community resources that support children and families,” Koenig said. 

Marie Johnson, who oversees Pinehurst Laundromat, a laundromat that is partnered in this outreach program, thinks that the binder is nice for parents who need help getting these resources.

Johnson mentioned how it is an “awesome idea” for the laundromats to incorporate these libraries that are aimed at children. 

“Many people leave magazines or books catered towards adults, but it is a great idea to include children,” Johnson said. 

The laundromats contain books that need to stay at the laundromat, but they also have books that are available to take home. Johnson said she likes this idea since not all children are able to have access to books or the library. 

“Both my boss and I are avid readers and so are our children. When this idea was presented to us we jumped on it,” Johnson said. 

Another laundromat partnered in this outreach program is Vine Street Laundry. Vine Street Laundry is a family owned neighborhood laundromat that is run by the Walker family. 

The Walker family said that although the space provided for the library is “not super large,” people have been utilizing the library when they go to Vine Street Laundry. 

According to the Walkers, parents and children who come into the laundromat are made aware of the books available and that they can be taken home.

Johnson said that she has also noticed that people who use Pinehurst Laundromat have been taking advantage of the books provided. 

Both Koenig and Lor said books and stories have the power to improve social and academic outcomes for children.

“We will continue to share the message about the critical importance of talking, reading, singing and playing with young children and using great books as tools to facilitate those essential practices,” Lor said. 

Koenig and Lor are exploring opportunities to expand free access to children’s books at additional sites within the Eau Claire community. 

Reed can be reached at [email protected]