Public libraries located in rural locations have unique capabilities to generate social well-being outcomes in their communities. Through conversations with over 200 people in eight remote towns across the US, we heard rural residents describe the “good life” in their own terms and the ways in which their local public libraries enriched that life. Janet from Marshfield summed up our findings before we had found them:

Listen: “So I think it’s human nature that we want to be part of a group, that we can feel like we are heard, and and we can make some difference.”

Key findings include:

  • Rural residents prioritize social connection and nature over access to amenities.
  • Rural libraries connect residents in a variety of ways, over time, impacting core vitality and security in their unique communities.
  • Rural library directors are bonded to the community, described as selfless and engaged, and are seen as both belonging themselves and active in creating belonging in others.

Call for Applicants

Want the tools to understand how social wellbeing happens in your community? Want guidance on translating that understanding into impactful library service?

The Rural Libraries and Social Wellbeing project is seeking applicants for the Tools in Action micro-grant program (application:

What happens:

  • Tools in Action participants work through five weeks of social wellbeing resources with a personal rural librarian guide;
  • After the five weeks they complete two monthly reflections and one Zoom interview.
  • The rural library staff person receives $500 to support their work over the program period.
  • The public library where the participant works receives $500 as seed money to be used to extend library service according to the staff person’s wishes.

When does this happen:

  • Applications are due February 13, 2021 and notifications will be received by February 15, 2021. 
  • Participants will work through resources February 22 – March 29 with meetings with their guide throughout.
  • Participants receive their honorarium during the first week of March and libraries receive their seed money during the last week of March.
  • Participants submit written reflections about their work in April and May, 2021.
  • Participants give a one-hour individual interview via Zoom in June, 2021.

Who can apply:

  • Paid employee of a public library with a budget less than $150,000 and service population less than 7,500, who is
  • Able to personally receive an honorarium of $500 for time spent learning to use the resources, meeting with personal guide, and answering written and video recorded questions;
  • Able to work with your public library trustees for the library to receive and spend $500 on social wellbeing related activities;
  • A person who wants to make real long-lasting wellbeing improvements throughout the community through library service.

For more information, email Margo at To apply, visit

We’re committed to transparency and open access.

Through each phase of this project, the data generated, methods used, and resulting analysis are all stored in the Rural Library Service project in Open Science Framework. There you’ll find our initial quantitative data analysis on library service in resource poor geographiesinterview methodologies, the pre-print of our primary paper and more.