Libraries and the 2020 Census

by Lauren Moore, Pioneer Library System Executive Director

A complete count in the 2020 Census is essential to ensuring that congressional, state and local redistricting is fair and accurate and that communities receive the proper funding for local infrastructure and social services. But there are many challenges that may undermine the accuracy of the 2020 Census, which will be administered digitally for the the first time.  These challenges include insufficient federal funding, a proposed question regarding citizenship status, and the fact that at least 20% of New Yorkers do not have internet access in their homes.

Libraries are New York’s trusted leaders in broadband access, digital literacy, and civic engagement.  We are prepared to provide the technology and information infrastructure New York will need to ensure a complete count, but we can’t take on this tremendous effort without proper funding. That's why the New York Library Association is advocating that the state make a $40M investment in libraries. This level of funding is required to ensure that every library can provide a secure digital census experience with the support of trained staff, for every New Yorker.

What you can do to the support this advocacy effort now:

  1. Share the message with every decision maker you can access. "Libraries are going to play a critical role in complete count efforts. We need adequate funding."
  2. Join local Complete Count initiatives and be the voice for those marginalized by the digital divides (those without internet access, devices, and/or the digital literacy skills necessary to complete an online census). "A digital census will make it even harder to count traditionally under-counted populations, and will create new hard to count populations because of digital inequity in New York."
  3. Share stories about the role your library plays in technology access, digital literacy, e-government (think tax forms and Affordable Care Act enrollment). What does it cost the library to provide those services? What kind of strain does it put on your organization? What's at stake if you don't receive additional funding to support these services?

On December 7, 2018, Lauren Moore testifed at the NYS Assembly Hearing on Libraries about the importance of the 2020 Census. Her full testimony is below.