Census Data Literacy

Census Data Literacy logo

Why Census Data?

Good data aids good decision making. The U.S. Census Bureau collects a wealth of data, so much that the quantity of data and tools can be overwhelming. Public libraries can support their patrons in navigating and understanding Census data for decision making, planning, and community and economic development. Libraries can also leverage the data to better understand the diverse communities they serve and to develop programs and services that best meet the needs and interests of their users.  

About this Project

The Census Data Literacy project is an initiative of PLA in partnership with ALA’s Public Policy and Advocacy Office. It aims to build data literacy skills among library staff to enhance their services, programs, and initiatives with the overall goal of promoting awareness and use of Census data in their communities. In 2021, this initiative will include six free webinars and complementary online resources.

Questions about the project? Contact Sara Goek, PLA Program Manager.


These free online trainings will empower library staff to provide inclusive patron training on using Census data in key areas.

Register now for our next webinar:

Digging Deeper into Local and Family History with Census DataDigging Deeper into Local and Family History with Census Data
A free PLA webinar
Monday, November 1, 2021
Instructors: Allison DePrey Singleton, Elizabeth Hodges, Sharon Tosi Lacey & Gabrielle “Gabby” Womack

The Census is an essential source for discovering and reconstructing local and family history. Rich data about communities, neighborhoods, and families document local demographics, immigration and naturalization information, ancestral family names, relationships, birth years, and birthplaces. Although the U.S. government has conducted a Census every ten years since 1790, the categories of data collected and the details provided in the Census records vary. Learn how categories for race, ethnicity, and other demographics have changed over time and how that impacts research. Discover public library programming and strategies to engage your community in a deeper understanding of local and family history. Census sources important to local history research and family genealogy will be discussed. More…

Previous webinar freely available on-demand:

Future webinar topics:

  • Advancing civic and community engagement with Census data
  • Digging deeper into local and family history with the Census
  • Enhancing your library’s understanding of your community with Census data


Census Data Literacy: Resource Guide (PDF)
This resource outlines the types of data available from the U.S. Census Bureau, why the data matters for libraries and communities, tools to use to find data, and how to learn more.