Launched in October 2020, the Rural Libraries and Health Cooperative Agreement program initially supported innovative pilot projects in five libraries systems across South Carolina to test alternative models of community care and healthcare engagement via a library system. In March 2022, the program expanded to include 4 additional library systems in partnership with the Department of Health and Environmental Control. Libraries are a natural partner in increasing access to care and services due to their reach, accessibility, and roles as trusted community institutions. The over 17,000 public libraries nationwide receive an estimated four million visits every day1. Additionally, over 95% of Americans live in a public library service area, and half of Americans with annual incomes under $30,000 visited a library2. Libraries and their staff are free to the public, located in local neighborhoods, and deeply trusted3. Libraries have the potential to become integral community resources and have been identified to be able to improve population health through modifiable social policy which have a documented relationship to health1. People experiencing homelessness or other life crises often tend to seek respite, information, and assistance in libraries4. Thirty-seven percent of library users report having utilized the internet access at the library to look for health information, treatment options, care givers, or other ways to improve their health5.
Rural populations often must travel for access to many essential preventative services. Using library locations will provide vital opportunities in these under-resourced areas. The nine awarded projects represent library systems from all regions of our state and include support for social workers, community health workers, and telehealth access at library locations. The programs aim to increase access to a variety of services, including behavioral health, health screenings, and reproductive health with the ultimate goal of connecting community members to the appropriate services for consistent and sustained preventive care and treatment.
Expands broadband internet to improve access to healthcare in Union County as well as implementing a social worker position to focus on building stronger relationships with the school districts to help families of children with special needs.
Increase clinical-community linkages between high-risk underserved rural residents in Lee County, SC and health and social service providers to improve rural population health outcomes, utilizing the Lee County Public Library as a community hub.
Provides a library social worker position to offer consultations to individuals in rural locations to improve health and wellness by connecting community members to health care providers.
Provides a social worker (known as a Library Resource Associate) to address social determinants of health and provide the missing link in coordination of connecting library patrons to comprehensive services, to include healthcare.
Addresses disparities in women’s health through health promotion and disease prevention and by connecting women to healthcare resources.
The hub serves to provide Marlboro County residents with health and social services in a trusted community-based setting. With a community health worker, the hub will create clinical-community linkages to increase the provision of clinical services and connection to social services to mitigate the barriers that impede residents from achieving optimal health outcomes. Project activities will also increase COVID-19 education, awareness, and vaccination rates in Marlboro County.
Leverage library resources and community partnerships to improve access to healthcare in Oconee County. The library will provide a base for a licensed social worker/community resource assistant to deliver case management and related partnership services, which include workforce development and education, assistance with housing and childcare referrals, and working with local healthcare providers for access to care all in order to improve health countywide.
Hire a health liaison who will reach out to citizens of Abbeville County, formalize our relationships with Abbeville Area Medical Center and the United Christian Ministries of Abbeville County, and oversee our telehealth partnership with WCTEL. The new hire will also engage patrons through our new alternative space for learning and creativity.
Hire a full-time social worker to develop a referral system and provide short-term case management. The social worker will develop a comprehensive crisis management plan for the library, assist with county-wide crisis response efforts, and develop a sustainability plan for library crisis management.
- South Carolina Public Libraries & Health: Needs and Opportunities Webinar
- Public Libraries and Public Health: Partners for Community Health
- South Carolina Public Libraries & Health: Needs and Opportunities White Paper