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Byington Reading Room

Salt Lake County Library Services, UT

Innovation Summary

A partnership between the Salt Lake County Library and the University of Utah Hospital created the Byington Reading Room inside South Main health clinic which targets children from immigrant families. An average of 1,200 gently used library books are given to visiting children each month to take home with them--often the first books the child has owned.

Problem Statement

The South Main Clinic serves the most at-risk population in Salt Lake County. Over 80% of the children served at the clinic are from families whose origin is Mexico and who primarily speak Spanish. 57% of our Hispanic/Latino parents have less than a high school education and average annual household incomes of about $14,000. Approximately 75% of the children are enrolled in Medicaid and 25% are uninsured. Hispanic/Latino children have the lowest high school graduation rates in the U.S., have parents with lower literacy levels than average White or Black Americans, and are less likely to be read to by family members. It was apparent that many of the clients could benefit from library resources. A Salt Lake City survey of teachers from low-income schools found that the most common deficits in children entering kindergarten related to literacy. Teachers stressed that children needed more exposure to books and that the families needed more direction in how to prepare children for school. Decreased educational attainment places children at risk for poverty and poor health. Many Hispanic/Latino residents do not realize what resources are available to them at the library and that these resources can help them improve health, basic life skills and earning power.


The clinic, located at 3690 South Main Street in Salt Lake City, serves the highest at-risk population in Salt Lake County – a population with predominately low-income and low-literacy. The Byington Reading Room at the South Main Clinic, named after Dr. Carrie Byington who initiated the library in the clinic's previous location almost a decade ago, is a partnership between Salt Lake County Library Services, the Salt Lake County Health Department and the University of Utah Hospital and Clinics. The Health Department owns the facility and provides the staff. The health care providers work for the University of Utah and the Salt Lake County Library provides the Reading Room staff, computers and books. Located at the clinic, the Reading Room provides visitors information on educational requirements and opportunities, early literacy training in Spanish, and informal drop-in story times. The Reading Room also provides computers for access to online resources and has trained staff available to assist visitors with health information. The library is open every day and houses 3,000-5,000 children's books. Each child visiting the Reading Room receives a gently used library book to keep. The library has shared 1,200 books per month with children for whom it may be the first book in their personal library.


The Byington Reading Room inside the South Main Health Clinic provides materials that nurture early literacy and offers computers for adult access to the Internet. The computers are used by the WIC clients to access information for their education requirements. The Library hired one full-time Library Assistant to spearhead the community outreach efforts at this location, as well as 40 hours per week of volunteer work. Monthly and informal drop-in story times are conducted in the Reading Room and early literacy training in Spanish is provided bi-monthly. Primary care doctors and nurses are trained to deliver early literacy guidance to parents of children six months to five years of age during each “well child” visit. South Main Clinic distributes 6,000 new books per year through the Reach Out and Read program in addition to the 12,000 provided through the library. In an article titled "The Good Habit of Reading (El Buen Habito de la Lectura): Parental Reactions to an Enhanced Reach Out and Read Program in a Clinic for the Underserved" by Dr. Carrie L. Byington et al in the Journal of Health Care for the Poor and Underserved 19 (2008): 363–368 (attached) details three themes from parent thank you notes: 1. Thanking the reading room for giving children books, for story time programs, and for computer access; 2. Benefits to children and families from promotion of the good habit of reading; 3. Positive perceptions of the clinic staff which enhance a trusting relationship between physician and family.