In 2020, the Census will be conducted primarily online for the first time. Like past e-government efforts, this will likely impact libraries and libraries' technology resources as staff work to assist people in participating in the Census. The 2020 Census also presents an opportunity to increase public awareness and use of Census data. To best position libraries to support our communities in the 2020 Census, ALA is engaging with the Census Bureau and other stakeholders to ensure that libraries are informed and represented in the policy discussions and planning process. ALA is advocating for a fair, accurate, and inclusive Census that recognizes the roles libraries will play in this vital civic effort.
Why the Census is Important
- Representation: The decennial count of all U.S. residents is required by the U.S. Constitution to determine representation in Congress and the Electoral College (known as reapportionment). This data is also the basis for drawing districts for federal, state, and local offices (known as redistricting).
- Funding: The Census is key to the allocation of billions of dollars in federal funding to states and localities (such as grants to states under the Library Services and Technology Act).
- Information: Data resulting from the Census is widely used by researchers, governments, businesses, and other organizations (to, for example, plan for library services).
Key Roles for Libraries
- Partners in E-Government: In 2020, the Census Bureau for the first time will encourage residents to complete the Census questionnaire online, starting in March 2020. Like past e-government efforts, this likely will place additional demands on library staff and technology resources to enable people to complete the Census questionnaire. (Other response methods will also be available.) Libraries can use their experience partnering with government to assist their communities in achieving a fair, accurate, and inclusive count.
- Education and Community Outreach: Libraries have the opportunity to educate their communities about the Census. In the 2010 Census, more than 6,000 library locations hosted Census Bureau outreach activities.
- Public Spaces: Census Bureau field staff often utilize community rooms in libraries as affordable temporary workspaces, such as for staff hiring and training. Other community stakeholders may also use library meeting rooms to host events related to the 2020 Census.
How Libraries can Prepare
- Learn more about the 2020 Census with the resources below.
- Watch for opportunities for your library to join a local Complete Count Committee or other get-out-the-count efforts in your community.
- Share ALA's brief, “Libraries and the 2020 Census,” with decision makers in your community.
Advocacy for a Fair, Accurate, and Inclusive Census
- The Scoop: “Getting Ready for the 2020 Census: Partnering with Complete Count Committees.” (September 11, 2018)
- The Scoop: “ALA Urges Commerce Department to Reject Census Citizenship Question.” (August 9, 2018)
- Comments to the Census Bureau regarding information collection in the 2020 Census (August 6, 2018)
- Coalition comments to the Census Bureau regarding information collection in the 2020 Census (August 1, 2018)
- Coalition Letter to the Senate Commerce, Justice, Science Appropriations Subcommittee regarding FY 2019 funding for the Census Bureau (June 4, 2018)
- District Dispatch: Gearing up for the 2020 Census (April 4, 2018)
- Coalition Letter to the House and Senate Commerce, Justice, Science Appropriations Subcommittees regarding FY 19 funding for the Census Bureau (May 1, 2018)
- Coalition Letters to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform and Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs regarding a citizenship question on the 2020 Census (April 12, 2018)
- Coalition Letter to the Commerce Department opposing the addition of a citizenship question to the 2020 Census (January 10, 2018)
- 2020 Census (U.S. Census Bureau)
- 2020 Census Operational Timeline (U.S. Census Bureau)
- Complete Count Committees (U.S. Census Bureau)
- Census Regional Offices – to contact the Census Bureau staff in your community (U.S. Census Bureau)
- Counting Everyone in the Digital Age: The Implications of Technology Use in the 2020 Decennial Census for the Count of Disadvantaged Groups (Leadership Conference Education Fund and Georgetown Center on Poverty and Inequality, Fall 2017)
- Census 2020 Hard to Count Map (City University of New York Center for Urban Research)
2020 Census Library Outreach and Education Task Force
To advise ALA’s efforts on the 2020 Census, the Public Library Association and the Washington Office convened a 2020 Census Library Outreach and Education Task Force.
To advise the association on conducting outreach and education to inform library staff about potential impacts—particularly for public libraries—that may arise from the 2020 Census, gathering information from library colleagues about expected impacts and needs, and collaborating with the Census Bureau and other decision makers to best meet the needs of libraries and support an accurate Census.
The 2020 Census Outreach and Education Task Force consists of 10-15 members, appointed by the chair of the Washington Office Advisory Committee and the PLA President-Elect, drawn from the membership at large, serving one two-year term and led by two co-chairs.
- Erin Ackerman, R. Barbara Gitenstein Library, The College of New Jersey
- Tom Adamich, Visiting Librarian Service
- Patricia Ball, Cobb County (GA) Public Library System
- Susan Hildreth, Aspen Fellow
- Nate Hill, Metropolitan New York Library Council
- Martha Hutzel, Central Rappahannock (VA) Regional Library
- Jeremy Johannesen, New York Library Association
- Sarah Kostelecky, College of University Libraries & Learning Sciences, University of New Mexico
- Karen Mellor, Rhode Island Office of Library & Information Services
- Janet O’Keefe, Flint (MI) Public Library
- Ramiro Salazar, San Antonio (TX) Public Library
- Jennie Stapp, Montana State Library
- Tracy Strobel, Cuyahoga County (OH) Public Library
- Cecilia Tovar, Santa Monica (CA) Public Library
- Kelvin Watson, Broward County (FL) Libraries Division
As government agencies at the local, state, and federal level move online to directly provide services, demands and opportunities have been created for libraries. ALA works with partners and stakeholders to seek recognition and resources for libraries providing e-government services. ALA's Washington Office is working with various ALA units to assess other types of support that could be helpful to local libraries as they manage these new demands.