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State's Second 'Laundromat Library' Coming to Olympia

By Staff Reports
The Tube City Almanac
June 06, 2019
Posted in: McKeesport and Region News

Pittsburgh's public television station and the Carnegie Library of McKeesport are teaming up to open the state's second "Wash and Learn" laundromat library at Olympia Shopping Center.

A celebration will be held from 10 a.m. to 12 noon Friday (June 7) at the Olympia Coin Laundry in Versailles, said Colleen Rauschenberg Denne, executive director of the library. The event is open to the public.

In cooperation with WQED Multimedia, the Allegheny County Library Association, and the international charity Libraries Without Borders, the McKeesport library is installing bookshelves and wi-fi hotspots at the laundromat.

The library hopes that customers of the laundry “will be introduced to some of the resources the library has to offer and become regular library users," Denne said.

Summer Reading Party

WQED also will sponsor a summer reading "ice cream party" at the main library, 1507 Library Ave., McKeesport, from 1 to 3 p.m. Saturday (June 8). Each child who attends will receive a free promotional book to get started, a spokesman said.

The summer reading party is being sponsored by WQED's "Inquire Within" program and the PNC Foundation and will be held downstairs at the children's library. For more information, call (412) 672-0625.

A spokeswoman said "Wash and Learn" is designed to provide outreach to families --- especially with children --- who might not otherwise visit the library. It's also designed to provide children with something more stimulating to do than watch TV.

A similar "wash and learn" library was installed last year at Sudsy's Laundromat in South Park Twp.

Carnegie Library of McKeesport will be supplying books in the space and also providing programming, Denne said. Library workers and volunteers will staff the area at different times and days of the week, she said.

Programming will include story hours, crafts and other activities and will be free of charge, Denne said, but the library is hoping for donations to make the initiative sustainable.

A detailed calendar of activities will be posted at the laundromat once the program is running, she said.

"I am very excited about the ‘Wash and Learn’ and am proud to be a partner in this initiative,” Denne said.

Libraries Without Borders was created in France in 2007 and created a branch in the United States in 2008. In 2015, it began pop-up library programs in public parks, housing lobbies, legal aid waiting rooms, train stations, farmers markets and food pantries.

The group's programs have won the Google Impact Challenge and the Library of Congress International Literacy Award.

The laundromat's owner, Bryan Calhoun, said his business was happy to provide space for the McKeesport library.

"Olympia Coin Laundromat is so excited to partner with the many great organizations and provide an education/play area for the children,” he said.  “As a family-owned business, we are really pleased to be able to provide a place for other families to be enriched."

Additional support for the program is being provided by the state's Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children. A spokesperson said the state is trying to extend opportunities to teach literacy during the so-called "summer slide."

According to studies, the "summer slide" occurs when kids who don't read during summer vacations actually slip in reading ability during those months, and start the next school year behind where they left off in the spring.

Originally published June 06, 2019.

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