Nationally and in South Carolina, libraries have increasingly been serving their communities to connect patrons to healthcare. This initiative supports projects that build on the roles of libraries as community hubs to connect people to healthcare and other supportive services.
Launched in October 2020, the Rural Libraries and Health Cooperative Agreement program supports innovative pilot projects in five libraries systems across South Carolina to test alternative models of community care and healthcare engagement via a library system. 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 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.