Rural Community Libraries and their Approach to Telemedicine

Americans in rural communities are using libraries as the driving force behind providing access to healthcare to their residents.  Rural libraries are offering more than the knowledge that people gain from books to their communities.  Rural libraries are providing internet access, health literacy classes, and programs such as walking groups to their communities.  According to a paper published by the American Library Association (ALA) in 2017, surveys in 2011 and 2104 showed that 39.8% of libraries in rural communities gave residents access to subscription health and wellness databases and 46% helped them learn about health insurance resources.  Amy Hille, a director in a rural town called Ritzville, Washington, stated “Libraries aren’t just libraries anymore.  Libraries are becoming community centers.”  East Adams Library in the state of Washington has implemented health programming and it offers monthly health literacy programs.  The programs include speakers who discuss various health topics such as mental health, genetics, vaccinations, LGBTQ health awareness, and healthy aging.  Speakers who travel from across the state are given a small travel stipend by the library as a result of the grant provided to them by the Network of the National Library of Medicine, Pacific Northwest Region (NNLM-PNR).  Before the Public Library Association (PLA) Libraries Connecting You to Coverage grant, the Norwich Public Library was already giving residents information about how to live healthy lives, using displays and hosting a workshop that taught them how to find reliable information.  Rural libraries are picking up the torch of education and encouragement and helping residents gain information about living productive and healthy lives and encouraging others to pick up the torch and help others become aware of the information that is available.

Libraries are touching communities no matter their economic status.  Libraries have always been the picture of accessibility – providing knowledge and high-speed internet to the underserved communities.  Libraries in rural communities who have an interest in introducing their residents to telehealth stand a big chance of continuously being the picture of an accessible and welcoming place to take refuge in.  The Federal Communications Commission has a $7.1 billion E-grant program for libraries and schools, which could really help health become a main topic in these places and also broaden the desire for telehealth programs.  Telehealth had its moment on the grand stage of healthcare options during the first few weeks of the Coronavirus pandemic.  People wanted to avoid in-person contact – even some doctors – at all costs.  In 2020, many libraries stepped their foot into the virtual waters of medicine accessibility and started getting involved in telehealth programs.  Libraries began creating spaces in them where telehealth appointments could be conducted.  The library is ideal for a person who does not want to use their cellphone for a doctor’s appointment or sending the doctor medical records, test results or digital images and be charged by their telephone company.  They have found out that the library’s free Wi-Fi can be used and is a way for them to save money.  Libraries are places where people seek knowledge and refuge and wouldn’t it be a plus, if residents in rural communities could also seek healthcare access there too?  Libraries could become the consistent place where people access healthcare information and are encouraged to pay it forward and help someone else do the same thing.



Mead, Allee. “Rural Libraries Help Communities Access Health Information.” The Rural Monitor, Rural Health Information Hub, 11 Mar. 2020, Accessed 29 June. 2022. 

Settles, Craig. “Commentary: The Future of Rural Libraries Could Be Healthcare.” Health, The Daily Yonder, 8 June. 2021, Accessed 29 June. 2022.


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