Nonprofit opens Ideas Box for Detroit recreation center

Mark Hicks
The Detroit News

A nonprofit group committed to boosting educational efforts around the world unwrapped a gift of sorts Monday in Detroit.

Libraries Without Borders “opened” the Ideas Box, a portable media center that provides the Internet, books, tablets, cameras and tools to access information for use in the city’s Farwell Recreation Center, officials announced.

Created by renowned French designer Philippe Starck as a response to help vulnerable populations worldwide, the Ideas Box aims to offer tools that help communities — including in Burundi, Australia and South Bronx, N.Y. — access information, education and cultural resources, group officials said.

“The needs are great here in Detroit, where many libraries and other public spaces have closed or reduced their hours,” said Allister Chang, executive director of Libraries Without Borders, in a statement. “The Ideas Box provides a way for Detroit youth to continue their education after school and on weekends. Because it is portable, the Ideas Box can go directly to where communities already congregate, thereby reducing barriers associated with transportation.”

The mobile media center was brought to Detroit through an invitation from Mayor Mike Duggan’s office, said the group, which launched by 2008 and works in more than 20 countries. It has six pieces: four main boxes including a component for laptops, a library, a cinema screen and an IT component as well as two boxes that become tables and chairs.

The standard Ideas Box typically contains 15 tablets and four laptops with a satellite Internet connection; 50 e-readers and 5,000 e-books; 250 hard copy books; a cinema screen and projector with 100 films; board and video games. Detroit’s Ideas Box in Detroit is installed with software designed to support education in literacy and math, said Libraries Without Borders officials.

Producing the Ideas Box can cost about $60,000, the group said. The implementation in Detroit was supported by the Alexander Soros Foundation, which provides grants to promote civil rights, social justice and education.

“Originally, the Ideas Box was intended to provide vulnerable populations with access to critical information and global culture,” said Patrick Weil, board chairman at Libraries Without Borders. “I am thrilled to see that the Ideas Box has lived up to its potential as a versatile educational tool providing a connection to a range of communities, from the remote Torres Straits Islands to right here in Detroit.”

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