Getting Ready for the 2020 Census

Partnering with Complete Count Committees

September 11, 2018

Complete Count Committees bring local stakeholders together to educate their community on the importance of the census. Image: Kentucky Youth Advocates
Complete Count Committees bring local stakeholders together to educate their community on the importance of the census. Image: Kentucky Youth Advocates

The upcoming 2020 Census will have repercussions for communities—and libraries—around the US. Library staff members and supporters can help keep their communities informed by participating in a Complete Count Committee (CCC).

CCCs provide information to community members about the Census. State, local, or tribal governments or community-based organizations form the committees and invite public officials and community leaders to participate. Most CCCs include representatives from a broad range of industries and organizations because so many segments of a community have a stake in ensuring a fair, accurate, and inclusive Census. In a given city, for instance:

  • A parent-teacher organization might be concerned with a full count of the city’s children to maximize education funding.
  • An Asian-American organization might aim for complete participation by its community’s members to increase their visibility (and perhaps argue for a city council district representing their neighborhoods).
  • A chamber of commerce might seek accurate data about the area’s workforce and consumer market.

By working together, these varied interests can leverage their different resources, constituencies, and communications channels to promote an inclusive count, which benefits the entire community.

Why should libraries participate?

Libraries have major stakes in their communities being fully represented in the 2020 Census. Census data affects libraries in several ways, including:

  • Library funding. Many federal and state programs, such as grants to states under the federal Library Services and Technology Act, allocate library funding based on population.
  • Library planning. Census data can inform whether a library should expand to serve an increasing population and what services it should provide to match local demographics.
  • Information services. Libraries provide access to Census data to local businesses, government agencies, community organizations, and researchers—data that is most useful if it is complete and accurate.

Libraries also have numerous resources that can support the work of CCCs. Libraries can provide space for committee meetings, host outreach activities, and provide information about the Census to their patrons (for instance, by sharing pamphlets or social media posts).

Participating with a CCC is an important opportunity for the library community to have a seat at the table in the 2020 Census. By participating, library staffers and supporters can:

  • provide information about an important public issue
  • help maximize federal and state funding provided to your community
  • increase local leaders’ awareness of library services
  • strengthen community relationships

Ryan Womack, a data librarian at Rutgers University Libraries, served on a CCC in New Jersey for the 2010 Census. As part of that experience, he wrote: “I made sure that we had posters and information displayed around the libraries, and I did an interview about the importance of the Census for the campus TV channel. It was a fun experience, and the Census [Bureau] had plenty of materials to make it easier. So I would encourage librarians to get involved!”

Some states and localities have already launched CCCs, while others will be starting up later this year and in 2019. Reach out to your local or state government to ask about opportunities to participate. By showing up, you can demonstrate to your elected officials and local leaders how the library can contribute to community priorities. If you are involved with a CCC in your community, please let us know.


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