<p>Librarians serving rural communities work against trends of decline; people, human service agencies, and government offices all have dwindling presence in rural centers. These communities are faced, additionally, with education and literacy gaps that exacerbate technology gaps (Mehra, 2017). Peer-reviewed information that might help rural libraries address social wellbeing is largely inaccessible to those libraries due to high costs, while low access to resources can limit an individual library’s ability to develop and iterate new practices derived from what research-based recommendations do exist. </p>
<p>Anecdotally and through library statistical data, there appears to exist outlier libraries that have made clear and positive impacts on their communities in low resource environments. How this happens and what the critical components and steps might be are difficult to identify. Simply put, the influence of library services on rural communities nationwide is not well understood (Real, et al, 2014, Flatley & Wyman, 2009, Mehra, et al, 2010), pointing towards a need for nationwide research that could yield practical information for rural librarians and feed future research. We ask, then: Are rural libraries a component of social wellbeing in resource-poor geographies? If so, when they are successful, what replicable practices do they employ?</p>
<p>Below you will find the general schedule of our actions described generally, according to the questions we seek to answer. As components are developed fully, we will make them public here, in Open Science Framework.
<img alt="Rural Library Service and Social Wellbeing project schedule" src="https://www.stls.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/rlssw-reasearch-phases-image.png"></p>
<p>Who are we? This is researh for public librarians created and conducted by public librarians, with help from critical friends who believe in the potential impacts of this work. Margo Gustina, project lead, has served rural community libraries as a librarian for the Southern Tier Library System since 2014, after leaving rural school librarianship. Eli Guinnee, now State Librarian of New Mexico, and Hope Decker, former rural library director turned Member Services Liaison for the Pioneer Library System, with Margo, form the research team. </p>
<p>Rick Bonney, of Cornell University, serve as methodology consultants, lending the research team their expertise in large data analysis, case-study protocol development, and study evaluation.</p>
<p>We are further honored by the participation in our project by the members of our advisory board. Bharat Mehra, Chair in Social Justice & Professor, School of Library and Information Studies, University of Alabama, and Cynthia Nikitin, Citizen's Institute and Rural Design and Project for Public Spaces were early supporters of the project. While others have continued to express interest, we won't publish the full list of advisors until November.</p>