The 2020 Census will have far-reaching impacts for political representation and government funding.Public libraries across Georgia are supporting a complete count through technology, outreach events and information sharing.
These efforts are so important that in 2019, the Georgia General Assembly dedicated $1 million to libraries specifically for technology that facilitates Census completion. Libraries across the state have utilized these funds to expand the number of computers, tablets and in some cases, mobile hotspots.
Because the Census will take place primarily online for the first time, internet access could be a barrier for some to complete their form. Public libraries will be an important part of the effort – all public libraries in Georgia offer free high-speed internet, and in many rural communities may offer the only free internet access in town.
“By having a public library in every county, we have the opportunity to make sure people have access to that free internet connection,” said Wendy Cornelisen, assistant state librarian at Georgia Public Library Service. “They don’t have to own their own device; they don’t have to pay for an internet connection at home.”
West Georgia Regional Library Director Jeremy Snell is leading the local Complete Count Committee. These volunteer committees are intended to increase awareness and motivate residents to respond to the 2020 Census.
“It’s very important for libraries to be at the table for the Census,” said Snell. “As trusted public institutions, libraries already interface with a number of hard-to-count populations, such as children age 0-5 and their caregivers, those experiencing homelessness and college students. Our system is making use of the technology funding provided by the Georgia General Assembly to place kiosks in each of our 19 facilities to allow a member of the community to complete the Census without needing a library card or providing any identifying information. Essentially, we want the experience to be similar to having the technology at home.”
The Brooks County Public Library, Ohoopee Regional Library and the Carrie Dorsey Perry Memorial Library in Nashville, Georgia, were among the 59 libraries selected nationally by the American Library Association to receive Library Census Equity Fund minigrants to bolster services to hard-to-count communities and help achieve a complete count.
The Carrie Dorsey Perry Memorial Library in Nashville, Georgia, will host events in three communities, featuring food and activities, along with tablets and hotspots for residents to complete their Census.
“With Berrien County among the hard-to-count areas, we are hopeful that these events will help facilitate census completion and emphasize the importance of being counted,”said Branch Manager Angi Hughes. “As an added bonus, we will be able to reach out to our communities to provide information about general library services.”
The counties served by the Ohoopee Regional Library have very little internet coverage as well, with only 60 percent of Toombs County residents having access to satellite internet.
“We are working with the local Complete Count Committees to provide Wi-Fi hotspots and Chromebooks in mobile Census units that we will take out to churches, recreational departments, senior centers, migrant housing, and anywhere else they need us,” said Director Cameron Asbell.
“We are promoting the Census now at events, telling people that there isn’t anything to fear and that the Census provides needed resources determined by the count of people. We are providing the technology, as we partner with different
communities and the people they trust to help us open the doors. Our goal is to go out to where people gather.”