Introduction to the Collection
From 2018 through 2021 public librarians from around the nation partnered with advisors to research whether and how public libraries influence social wellbeing in rural communities. We found that where public libraries were making the greatest impacts, they were using existing local pathways – networks and norms that helped them deepen the quality of their work. The complete methods and findings from the research can be read Pathways to Wellbeing: Public Library Service in Rural Communities. In short, every community has strengths. In observing pathways that exist in the locations we visited, we saw these strengths manifest, as well as the obstacles which halted the good works of community residents.
It is our view that the most instructive approach for the reader which we can take as writers, is to focus our discussion of each of the eight case study communities on the Pathways to Wellbeing findings each location makes obvious. This is intended to assist the reader in sharing our growing understanding of how social wellbeing happens in remote rural communities. It does not, however, replace that story of that place. Each of these communities is much more than we describe them here–each of these people is richer and more complex than a brief interview can communicate.
We’ve given each library director the space to share the story of where they live in their own words and these videos or edited transcripts precede each case study (web / print). Further, we invite you to check out the resources at the end of the studies which were shared with you by town residents themselves. These are given for those of you curious about the place on its own terms, instead of what this research team thinks is broadly instructive about what we found there.