top of page

From Laundromat Libraries to Literacy Foundation



Elizabeth Huber & Karen Long
Elizabeth Huber & Karen Long

The Clinton County Literacy Foundation, led by Karen Long and Elizabeth Huber, has seen extreme growth and impact in our community within the past 4-years, recently achieving ‘The Friend of Education’ award from Southern Ohio Educational Service Center for their participation in helping raise literacy awareness. This momentum continues as they prepare for this summer’s events, and even explore the future possibility a bookmobile!


Karen, a well-accomplished educator and leader, obtained her first teaching position directly after graduating from Kent State University. She taught English in Guangzhou, China for 2-years before desiring to relocate closer to her family, who lived in the Cincinnati area then. This desire led her to her first teaching position in Wilmington, where she taught at East End Elementary for several years.


In 2007, she was asked to relocate to Rodger O. Boro Middle School, where she taught Language Arts. Shortly after, Karen relocated to Denver Place Elementary, where she obtained her first job as principal. When asked how the transition from teaching to becoming a principal felt, Karen responded, “it felt really good to come back to elementary kids after being at the middle school for several years. I loved my time at the middle school, the teachers, and the students. But I really love elementary children best. So it felt really good to be in Denver with younger children. I really loved the relationships that I built with families at Denver too.” She later became the Principal of Holmes Elementary, where she retired in 2019.


Post-retirement, Karen worked for Miami University part-time, recruiting teachers for their Master’s Program through the Ohio Writing Project. It was at this time that Karen began to create the ‘Laundromat Libraries’ which has since become the ‘Clinton County Literacy Foundation’. When she and her husband decided to travel full-time in 2021, she brought on the help of Elizabeth Huber to continue the program’s mission.


Elizabeth, born and raised in Wilmington, has deep-rooted ties within this community due to her involvement in multiple organizations, and the Wilmington News Journal. Post-college, she worked as a retail manager at a local outlet mall, where she was employed for 20-years. After the mall’s closing, Elizabeth obtained a temp job, which led her to her current position at Wilmington News Journal, where she has worked for almost 10 years.

One of her many philosophies is, “if you don’t like something, do something about it, change it. You just have to go out and do [it]”. This helps us better understand her passion for community involvement, and why she decided to step up and run the Laundromat Libraries (now known as CCLF) while Karen pursued full-time travel.



The genesis of the Laundromat Libraries was inspired by an NPR article that Karen read and promptly shared on social media. She posed the question, “hey, who thinks we can do this here?” This simple repost opened a platform for individuals who believed the program would benefit the county. After a group discussion, and meetings with laundromats in the Clinton County area, the group officially began offering its services to four laundromats in November of 2020. Karen states that the program’s purpose at that time was, “something for kids to do while they waited for their parents to do the laundry instead of running around or not doing anything or being on phones. [Instead] giving them books to look at while they waited, and teaching families that reading is a good thing to do while you wait wherever you are.”


Once Karen left for her travels, Elizabeth focused on growing the program, which led to the libraries spreading to new locations, and servicing events—the first large event being an Earth Day celebration hosted by Main Street Wilmington. At the event, community members such as Mrs. Harris from Harvest of Gold and local preschool teachers volunteered to read books every hour. Shortly after this event, they began to set up bookshelves at the Clinton County Farmer’s Market once a month, which gained consistent traction.


In 2023, shortly after Karen had returned from her travels, the duo pursued 501c3 status, with funds made available by Peoples Bank, The Eagles, and private donors. Since then, the organization has flourished, spreading the love for literacy to the entire county and adapting to the community’s needs. Karen states, “all of this is about breaking down barriers to access to books, promoting book ownership, and the creation of little libraries in homes.” She emphasizes that this is not strictly subject to young children but to people of all ages.


One of the most recent activities that the CCLF hosted was ‘Read Across Clinton County’, which was a 2-week long interactive event that encouraged reading and incorporated local businesses as “passport stops”. Elizabeth explains, “a lot of people hadn’t heard of some of these businesses. These businesses are ready to do it again. They are so excited. We had such a great turnout. We had over 860 passport stops made.”


The CCLF has exciting plans for its future, including focusing on a holistic approach for the community and exploring avenues for adult literacy services. Learn more at fb.com/clintoncountyliteracy.

10 views

Comments


bottom of page