Despite growing up in a small town in Costa Rica before the internet era, Kathia Valverde still had somewhere to turn for information when she began questioning her sexuality — her librarian, Carmen.

Today, Valverde helps others get information — not as a librarian, but as an LGBTQIA+ community health worker. Health disparities are common in these populations, in part because discrimination makes health information harder to come by. Little research has been done on how community health workers like Valverde navigate these information inequities — nor are there many who serve LGBTQIA+ communities specifically. 

A $357,000 grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services is changing that. Over the next two years, a team of researchers from the University of South Carolina’s School of Information Science and Arnold School of Public Health will collaborate to recruit, learn from and develop specialized training for LGBTQIA+ community health workers. The researchers will also explore how partnerships with medical librarians can help, opening the door for librarians to better serve communities where they are needed most.

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