Charleston Libraries Become Hybrid Health Care Hubs During COVID-19 Pandemic | Health


When the American Library Association recommended last March that all libraries in the United States close their doors to the public in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the national organization fully realized the gravity of its decision even as d Other businesses and nonprofits across the country faced the same difficult choice.

“It is very difficult for us to present this recommendation,” said the ALA Board of Trustees on March 17, 2020. “Libraries are proud to be there during critical times for our communities. We are often the only institutions to remain open during periods. Service and stewardship to our communities are at the heart of our profession.

But in much the same way that most journalists had to become health journalists last year, many libraries have also pivoted during the pandemic. In this sense, the ALA recommendation served as a call to arms.

In Charleston in particular, the Charleston County Public Library has changed the way it distributes books, yes, and some of the physical buildings in the system remain closed to the public, but it has also arguably become a health care organization in fully fledged, facilitating vaccination clinics. , helping connect clients to health insurance coverage and tackle food insecurity.

“The truth is, it’s the thing people don’t understand about libraries,” said Natalie Hauff, spokesperson for the Charleston County Public Library. “They are a little expert in everything.

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The Charleston County Public Library recently hosted two COVID-19 vaccination clinics, where more than 1,000 people were able to receive vaccines. In many ways, the library system has changed the way it serves the community during the pandemic. Provided

One of the hardest parts of his job, Hauff said, is breaking down the long-held stigma that libraries are big, silent repositories for books.

“The problem is, people just don’t know,” she said. “People don’t know what the library does and the different resources available. “

To that end, the following list details some of the ways the library served and continues to serve the residents of Charleston during the pandemic.

For more information on any of these programs, visit

Mobile access points and computer loans

Internet connection during COVID-19 has become more important than ever, especially for schoolchildren who have switched to virtual learning, last spring will not be notified in advance. Through a grant program, the library network has acquired 100 mobile hot spots dedicated specifically to customers using rural branches, including St. Paul’s Hollywood, Edisto and McClellanville, last year. The system also began loaning 90 Google Chromebooks at nine locations.

Library branches revert to curbside recycling services

Launch of career kits

Unemployment soared last year when stay-at-home orders were put in place. The library system Career Kits were designed to help job seekers find employment. The kits, which can be viewed like any other book or library material, “includes an access point, a Chromebook computer, and one-on-one instructions and support from the library’s technical team staff. and the Workforce Development Librarian “.

Marker highlights the history of slave ownership on Broad Street in Charleston

Wi-Fi availability

People have always flocked to libraries to browse books, but having an Internet connection is just as, if not more, important to many customers.

When Charleston Libraries closed to the public, the system decided to keep Wi-Fi connectivity operational. According to Hauff, in the first two months after the libraries closed in March, “a weekly average of over 900 people connected to the library’s Wi-Fi outside the facilities, with a total of over 18,000 connections. . At peak use, more than 1,700 people used the library’s free Wi-Fi in a week.

Continuation of the Summer Feeding program and launch of the Kids Cafe

Food insecurity among children became a major concern when the school closed last spring. In partnership with Charleston County School District Nutrition Services and the Lowcountry Food Bank, the library system distributed more than 11,500 meals to children last summer, then continued to distribute free after-school snacks. to the children of the new Children’s cafe, located in five branches of the library, when the school year began last fall.

Reception of vaccination clinics

In another partnership, the library has partnered with Charleston County Emergency Management and Fetter Health Care to host immunization clinics at the Baxter-Patrick James Island Library and St. Paul’s Hollywood Library this year. In total, more than 1,000 residents have been vaccinated at the two sites, with a large percentage of patients coming from rural areas.

Community garden

In another St. Paul’s Hollywood Library initiative, the library system established a community garden and installed a refrigerator with a grant provided by Roper St. Francis to provide free food to library patrons. Hauff said the refrigerator allows the library to store produce grown in the garden before distributing it to the community.

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Libraries are not just storehouses of books. In the photo, the Charleston County Public Library recently held a COVID-19 vaccination clinic. Provided


Telemedicine has been around for years, but it saw a big boom in the early days of the pandemic when it became safer to see a health care provider through a computer or smartphone screen. To this end, in mid-February, the library launched its own telehealth program.

The program is facilitated by Amy Chang, a community health worker, who the library system was able to hire with a grant from the South Carolina Center for Rural and Primary Healthcare and a partnership between the Medical University of South Carolina, the Department of HC Health. and environmental control and the College of Charleston.

Appointments can be made at several libraries, where Chang is available to help people connect to social services, sign up for Medicaid and SNAP benefits, or find a health care provider.

To reach Lauren Sausser at 843-937-5598.


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