Posted by Jim Craner on February 26, 2019

Something big is coming in 2020 - and we're not talking about the presidential election or the Olympics... it's the decennial US census!  And libraries have a critical role to play to ensure that their communities are represented in the census data, and the resulting program dollars that will flow.  Thankfully, the US Census Bureau and other organizations are working together to help everyone be counted fairly.

For those who need a reminder, the Census is the Constitutionally-mandated effort to literally count every person in the United States, held every ten years.  At the most basic level, the resulting population figures are used to determine how many Congressional representatives - and thus electoral college votes - each state receives.  The population figures for each community, however, are used in statistical models, programs, applications, and dozens of other contexts in government and academia.

Libraries may see additional traffic and services provided during the upcoming census period, especially in public access.  This will be the first ever census with a significant online response component - since libraries are the primary source of Internet access for many American, librarians have a duty to become familiar with the details of the process to aid their patrons.  In addition, libraries' existing job training and workforce development programs should be aware that the Census Bureau expects to hire as many as half a million temporary census workers for the project!

The ALA provides a detailed census fact sheet and resource kit for libraries planning their activities, programming, and community outreach activities over the next couple of years as the census is planned and conducted.  More information, including details on state-specific efforts and funding opportunities, can also be found in this American Libraries article about the census from last month.