Census and Westchester Library System + Covid-19

I was excited to hit the ground running back in December of 2019 with coordinating the 2020 Digital Census for the Westchester Library System. I immersed myself in research and learned every aspect of the process that I could. I devised a training program for the staff of the member libraries so we would maintain consistency, helped to spearhead the process of providing safety driven devices purely for Census, and made myself available to assist throughout the active self-response phase. I was as ready as I could be.

Then the curveball hit. Nothing can possibly prepare you for a pandemic to hit the world. Suddenly, all the carefully laid out plans for libraries to support the 2020 Census efforts had to be completely redrawn. I for one, am grateful that the Census went digital for 2020. It meant that people could still go online and fill it out immediately upon receipt from the safety of their own homes. The biggest difference today versus 2 months ago, is that all the support we planned to give to those patrons without technology or adequate service to access it at home, has gone out the window. Without an open physical space to be in, we cannot proceed as planned. But all is not lost. Working together with all the member libraries, the different municipalities, and the County means that we are always thinking of new creative ways to reach those people. Census flyers, door hangers, thermometers and signs around towns and cities have all helped to increase awareness of the Census.

And the proof is in the pudding. Westchester County has a higher self-response rate than New York State and even the Nation. As of my writing this, we stand at 60.2%, less than 8% away from the final 2010 self-response rate. Two municipalities have already surpassed their final 2010 self-response rates, with 16 more within 5%. I’m encouraged by these numbers. And although we still have a ways to go, I know that together, we’ll get there.

Responding to the 2020 Census supports New Yorkers everywhere. Please take a few minutes and visit https://my2020census.gov/. For more information on the Census in Westchester County, please visit www.westchestercounts.org.

The author, Dana Hysell-Alongi, is the Census Coordinator for Westchester Library System. She can be reached at dhysell@wlsmail.org.