A Publication of the Public Library Association Public Libraries Online

The Census Starts in Two Weeks

by on March 3, 2020

Are You Ready for Patron Questions?

On March 12, millions of American households will begin receiving mailings inviting them to respond to the 2020 Census. To get an accurate count, everyone has to respond – if they don’t, our libraries and communities will lose needed funding.

As the mailings arrive, and especially with the new option to respond online, patrons may come to your library with questions. To help you prepare, ALA has a new two-page tip sheet, “Libraries and the 2020 Census: Responding to the Census.” The tip sheet provides key dates, options for responding, and advice for libraries preparing for the 2020 Census. For instance, the tip sheet explains these important facts:

Ways to Respond: Households can respond to the Census online, by phone, or by mail from March 12 until July 31.

Mailings: Between March 12 and 20, the Census Bureau will send letters to most households that explain how to respond online or by phone. The Census Bureau will follow up with several reminders in March and April.

Paper Questionnaires: In areas with low internet connectivity, the first mailing will also include a paper questionnaire. Between April 8 and 16, the Census Bureau will send a paper questionnaire to every household that has not yet responded.

Household Visits: Beginning May 13, households that have not responded will receive visits from a Census Bureau employee. Questionnaire Languages: The online and phone questionnaires will be available in 13 languages.

Online Devices: The online questionnaire will be accessible from smartphones and tablets, in addition to laptop or desktop computers.

Security and Confidentiality: Responses in the online questionnaire are secure and encrypted, and the confidentiality of all responses to the 2020 Census are strictly protected by law. In addition, the tip sheet highlights resources from the Census Bureau that libraries can share to assist patrons completing the Census. The Video Guide to Completing the 2020 Census Online walks respondents through the online questionnaire and is available in multiple languages. Written guides to completing the questionnaire are also available in English and 59 other languages. Attendees of the 2020 Public Library Association conference can learn more at “2020 Census Countdown: What You Need to Know Now” on Friday, February 28. Census Bureau staff will also be available to answer questions in the exhibit hall, booth 1819. With just weeks to go before the Census begins, ALA’s tip sheet can help your staff prepare. For additional resources about libraries and the 2020 Census, visit ala.org/census

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