Nov 19, 2020

Facing the ongoing effects of COVID-19 head-on

From refugee camps in Bangladesh to laundromats in Oakland, we seek to provide equal access to information, education, and cultural resources for communities historically subject to systemic discrimination. 

 Announcing the launch of our new website:

After much anticipation, we are excited to share with you our newly designed website. Check it out to learn more about our current projects and team.


ConnectED Technology Kits: San Antonio

Over the past few months, LWB US has collaborated with community organizations to source and distribute over 100 of our ConnectED Kits. Each kit is equipped with a laptop, mobile hotspot (upon request), and resource packet with educational and community resources. 

To better understand the impact of our ConnectED Kit program on the San Antonio community, we have spent the last few weeks surveying and interviewing participants. Through the roll out of this community survey, we have spoken with over 45 ConnectED Kit recipients.


ConnectED Technology Kits: Baltimore 

So far, Libraries Without Borders US has provided nearly 100 Baltimore households with a ConnectED Kit. We have worked tirelessly to meet community members where they are, delivering kits through curbside pickups or outside Enoch Pratt Free Library branch locations. We have also distributed these kits at community events, including one on September 12th that we hosted with the Volo Kids Foundation, an organization that promotes community wellness through teaching and sports leagues that are open to all. 

We are continuing to improve this program by collecting feedback from our kit recipients. Since September, we have been working with the Enoch Pratt Free Library to survey recipients and learn about their experiences with the tech as well as understand what other resources they might benefit from.

Curious about our ConnectED distribution events? Watch this Q&A with Azure, our Baltimore Project Coordinator, as she answers all your questions about ConnectED.


Wash and Learn Initiative (WALI) updates 

Since the outbreak of COVID-19, we have had to pause much of the programming and resources of our Wash and Learn Initiative (WALI) laundromats. Now, we are beginning to assess the reopening strategy of these WALI laundromats. 

Our priority in reopening WALI is to protect the health and safety of patrons. To assess the needs and comfort levels of each community, we are circulating our Laundromat Reopening Survey in San Antonio and Baltimore to guide how we safely reintroduce WALI resources and programming into laundromats. We are committed to ensuring community members are connected to critical information while maintaining COVID-19 safety guidelines.

Learn more about WALI's inception by checking out Deputy Director Katherine Trujillo's recent presentation at the Association of Bookmobile and Outreach Services (ABOS) conference here.


Community spaces in Loíza, Puerto Rico

LWB US brought socially-distanced pop-up libraries filled with hotspots and laptops for virtual learning to the Sector La 23 y Las Gardenias community center (a community center in Loiza, Puerto Rico). Additionally, we are thrilled to announce that we have expanded our ConnectED Kit program to Loíza. With the support of our funders and partners, including Sony, Link Puerto Rico, Camera Mundi, and Comunitaria Sector 23 y las Gardenias, LWB US has now connected over a dozen survey respondents to ConnectED Kits. 

To learn more about and our work in Puerto Rico, check out one of our latest blog posts.  

Unfortunately, over 100 families in the neighborhood are still in need of computers and the internet, especially considering the virtual nature of this school year. Donate today to help us provide ConnectED Kits to these families.



IdeasCube Program in Chihuahua, Mexico

To address the growing need for connectivity to the internet, we are working with the Ministry of Culture in Chihuahua and the state’s network of libraries to provide remote and hard-to-reach communities with offline access to educational resources. By leveraging the capacity of the IdeasCube, we will provide residents of 21 isolated communities across Chihuahua with up-to-date information and educational resources.

Listen in as our Deputy Director & Director of Education/Quality Katherine Trujillo and our Operations and Finance Coordinator Alejandra González Vargas discuss libraries during and after the COVID-19 pandemic on the fourth installment of the Encuentro Estatal de Bibliotecas conference.


Stay Updated on the News: 

Where do we go from here?

For the estimated 40 million people across the United States lacking access to broadband internet, quarantine restrictions and the threat of COVID-19 effectively prevent them from working remotely, attending online school, using telehealth services, and even from searching for job opportunities online.  

The effects of COVID-19 will not disappear overnight, and we need your support to efficiently and sustainably advance the informational, literacy, and digital needs of our constituents.  We are confident that with your continued generosity we can further expand our impact.

Jul 24, 2020

Addressing challenges posed by COVID-19

Free Laundry at Oakland WALI Site
Free Laundry at Oakland WALI Site

The ongoing public health crisis provoked by the spread of COVID-19 has ushered in unprecedented challenges. The disease has struck hardest amidst the poor and communities of color, laying bare systematic racism and the deep inequalities of access to health care, jobs, and schools. At the same time, the protests and calls for racial justice following the murder of George Floyd have turned a spotlight on systemic racism in America.

Both the public health crisis and Black Lives Matter reinforce our mission at LWB: to provide equal access to information and knowledge. Before the crisis, nearly 27 million Americans, disproportionately Black and Brown, lacked access to the Internet, a number that has soared in tandem with job losses. For children, the initial closure of schools exposed significant gaps in access to online teaching and deepened the inequality between those who have access to high-speed internet and those who don't - keeping in mind that those who don't are disproportionately non- white

LWB US continues our work to meet the challenges of the pandemic. We have deepened our commitment to bridging the digital divide and providing all children and adults access to information, education, and knowledge. 

In order to support the communities most impacted by the pandemic and recent social unrest, LWB innovated a rapid response strategy that ensures everyone has access to the Internet and an at-home digital device. 


Updates on our Wash and Learn Initiative (WALI):  

Since the outbreak of COVID-19, LWB transitioned some of its WALI sites to better respond to challenges posed by the virus. In San Antonio, LWB successfully expanded the WiFi connection to parking lots at each of the WALI sites. Now, laundromat patrons and neighborhood residents can access the Internet while remaining in the safety of their vehicles.

 At our Oakland WALI site at Family Laundry, the outbreak of Coronavirus exacerbated the needs of its patrons. In response, we designated funds to provide free laundry to seniors. We also delivered 44 hotspots to the International Community School, for families without at-home Internet connections. Now, students in the community are able to take part in remote learning. Family Laundry also worked with the International Community School to deliver 55 grocery store gift cards to families without access to food. Nutrition is critical for learning.


Updates on our ConnectED kits: 

A key program in our COVID-19 response strategy is the creation and distribution of ConnectED kits: backpacks equipped with a laptop, mobile hotspot, Internet connection, and educational materials. Since the start of the pandemic, we have assembled and delivered x kits in Baltimore and San Antonio. 

Many more children now have the resources needed to attend online classes, and many more parents can access health information, seek work, apply for benefits, or pay their online bills.

Watch our Baltimore WALI Project Coordinator Azure distribute kits around the city! 


Baltimore Digital Equity Coalition:

When the pandemic began, LWB spearheaded the Baltimore Digital Equity Coalition, which supports a coordinated, “rapid response” to digital access during COVID-19. With the participation of over 50 other local organizations and foundations, including PCs for People, Baltimore City Public Schools, Byte Back, and the Robert W. Deutsch Foundation, the coalition strives to close the digital divide. 

The coalition has been remarkably successful in advocating for the Baltimore City Council and Mayor Young's office to pass a $3 million ordinance on digital equity. The measure allows City schools to use funds from the city’s Baltimore Children and Youth Fund to purchase devices and expand connectivity for students. The ordinance puts the digital divide alongside boxed meals as a high priority of the Baltimore Children and Youth Fund. 


Where do we go from here?

Despite our current efforts, the unprecedented nature of COVID-19 continues to disproportionately affect the same communities we support. From Oakland, to San Antonio, to Baltimore, our caseload numbers are increasing rapidly. 

Because of your support, we've accomplished so many things. We cannot thank you enough. We hope that you are as proud of these accomplishments as we are. We are confident that with your continued generosity we can further expand our impact.

Distributing ConnectEd Tech Kits in San Antonio
Distributing ConnectEd Tech Kits in San Antonio
Mar 26, 2020

Overcoming the Digital Divide and Literacy Crisis

The past few weeks have ushered in unprecedented challenges and unsettling uncertainty for our society. With the outbreak of COVID-19, also known as the coronavirus, many businesses, schools, and anchor institutions have been forced to close their doors. In hopes of preventing the spread of this virus, major cities like San Francisco and New York  ordered residents to “shelter-in-place,” a dramatic, yet necessary action that was soon followed by other cities across the country. Under these restrictions, many people have been forced to move their day-to-day activities—everything from work to worship, school to the gym—online. 


But what about those with limited or no access to fast, reliable internet service? According to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), an estimated 21.3 million people across the United States lacked access to broadband internet in 2019. In rural areas, this divide is even more extreme, with only two-thirds of residents reporting that they have a broadband connection at home. The spread of this virus has highlighted the weak, or in some cases nonexistent, digital infrastructure of these communities. It has revealed the stark and ever-widening digital divide in our country. 


From our founding, Libraries Without Borders has worked to provide all people, regardless of their circumstances, with opportunities to pursue knowledge, art, culture, education, and life-saving information. At the heart of these efforts is a commitment to digital equity, which is necessary for civic and cultural participation, employment, lifelong learning, and access to essential services or information. 


Given the nature of our work, the current public health crisis has forced us to change many of our practices and programming in order to protect the health of the communities we serve, as well as that of our team. Despite these challenges, or perhaps because of them, we have doubled down on our commitment to providing access to information and education, especially to those who need it most. With your support, we will be able to provide rapid response services to children, families, and other vulnerable individuals impacted by the coronavirus. For children who are not in school, this means providing them with laptops and Internet access that will allow them to participate in distance learning or other educational activities. For families, this means signing up for free or low-cost Internet services, or connecting them to local nonprofits equipped to support parents facing extreme hardship because of the pandemic. 


To support our rapid response to the coronavirus, please visit our donation page. 

For updates on our programs since December 2019, please read on…


The Baltimore Wash and Learn Initiative


In February 2020, LWB organized our first-ever tax intake program, which took place at our Baltimore WALI sites. Through this program, we have helped low-income laundromat patrons complete their taxes — completely free of charge! To date, we have helped 17 clients through this program, which was made possible with support from the Cash Campaign of Maryland. 


Earlier this year, our partners at the Enoch Pratt Free Library launched an English Class for Spanish speakers at one of our Baltimore WALI laundromats. The class brought in 12 participants on its very first day! 


Following the success of our first half year, the Baltimore City Department of Planning awarded Baltimore WALI a grant to support census outreach efforts. With this support, we will host a community event that brings the census directly to Baltimore residents at our WALI sites. 

The San Antonio Wash and Learn Initiative 


According to the Department of Community Initiatives, the illiteracy rate in San Antonio is 25% — that’s 373,250 people who are unable to read and write. In response to this literacy crisis, LWB is fully committed to continuing and growing our San Antonio WALI program. Over the past four months, we have partnered with local organizations to  provide more than 100 hours of programming at our WALI laundromat sites. Program activities ranged from story time sessions to voter registration drives, and participants included everyone from toddlers to senior citizens. In total, we have served more than 250 people! Stay tuned for our expansion to two new laundromat sites! 

The Oakland Wash and Learn Initiative 


After a whirlwind first year, Family Laundry is gearing up to expand programming for Fruitvale residents. Amidst the COVID-19 outbreak, the laundromat has decided to host a “Free Laundry Day” entirely for senior citizens in the community on March 23rd.  If you’d like to support this event, or a future “Free Laundry Day,” please contact Adam Echelman: 

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