Because everyone counts: Area libraries stress importance of 2020 census
by Lori Adler, reporter
The 2020 census is fast approaching, and area libraries are helping to get the word out about the importance of participating and being counted.
The census is conducted every 10 years by the U.S. government. Its purpose is to count all people who are living in the U.S. and to gather demographic information such as household size. The questions are simple, but the information collected is vital to the government in many ways.
“It’s very important for us to get proper counts,” said Virginia Roberts, director of Rhinelander District Library (RDL).“And really important for our area.”
Roberts stated that the census is used to determine congressional representation as well as to properly allocate federal funding to Wisconsin and the Northwoods. Federal money is used to fund social service programs as well as for state-supported programs like the county fair and University of Wisconsin-extension services.
“We need to be properly represented,” Roberts added.
Since libraries are a hub of community activity, libraries all across the country are participating in the census, helping to get the word out about this important questionnaire. RDL, in conjunction with other area libraries, will conduct several information sessions about the census. Sessions are expected to be held in January or February.
Roberts wants to be sure everyone is not only aware of the importance of the census, but she also wants people to know that the census is not scary or intrusive. It is completely anonymous. In addition, the controversial question about citizenship that had been considered will not be included on the 2020 questionnaire.
“There are no weird questions that will get anybody hurt,” Roberts said.
Fear of the questions, along with a lack of faith in government and a desire for privacy, can make data gathering tricky. Another issue is that the census, and the government in general, have gone to a mostly paperless system, and many in the Northwoods lack reliable internet service. As another way to help, area libraries will be offering the use of their computers for completing the census.
Households will be invited to participate either by a mailed invitation or by a census worker, with 95% of households receiving the invitation by mail. One person from the household will then be asked to respond to questions online or by phone; households will also be able to request a paper questionnaire if needed. The invitations will be sent out in mid-March 2020, with reminder letters for those who haven’t responded being sent out around the end of March. Additional reminders will be sent in April, and those who have not responded by mid-April will receive an in-person visit from a census worker.
Roberts hopes that with the education the libraries plan to provide, everybody will see the importance of the census and complete the questionnaire “because everyone counts.”
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