Skip to main content

Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners Resource Guide Collection

Census 2020 in Massachusetts: 2020 Census - Start here

Start here to learn what you need to know.

The once-a-decade population count affects your representation in government, determines how much funding your community receives, and provides data to help you plan for the future.

The 2020 Census will impact local libraries and we want Massachusetts libraries to be ready to meet local needs. 

  1. The 2020 Census will be offered online for the first time, and by phone and in paper form. This will be a challenge due to issues around the digital divide and technology fluency. 
    Libraries are often the only place in a community with reliable internet connectivity and access to computers. Libraries can start to think about how they can prepare for an uptick in demand for library technology by residents, including non-card holders. Likewise, libraries can start planning how they will handle an increase in technology use for census response, for example designating a computer or mobile device as an express station for census response. 
  2. There will be ten questions, which should take no more than ten minutes. There will not be a question about citizenship. Click here to see a Sample Copy of the 2020 Census Questionnaire
  3. April 1, 2020 is Census Day! It's not too late to start planning and working with a local complete count group. 

The Basics All Library Workers Should Know

Short on time and resources? Review this ALA factsheet and share with library staff so they are aware of the key facts. 
This two pager covers what the census is and why it is important, how does the census work, how people respond, and what libraries can do. 

From the American Library Association's 2020 Census Information Page: 

Why the Census is Important

  • Representation: The decennial count of all U.S. residents is required by the U.S. Constitution to determine representation in Congress and the Electoral College (known as reapportionment). This data is also the basis for drawing districts for federal, state, and local offices (known as redistricting).
  • Funding: The Census is key to the allocation of billions of dollars in federal funding to states and localities (such as grants to states under the Library Services and Technology Act).
  • Information: Data resulting from the Census is widely used by researchers, governments, businesses, and other organizations (to, for example, plan for library services).

Key Roles for Libraries

  • Partners in E-Government: In 2020, the Census Bureau for the first time will encourage residents to complete the Census questionnaire online, starting in March 2020. Like past e-government efforts, this likely will place additional demands on library staff and technology resources to enable people to complete the Census questionnaire. (Other response methods will also be available.) Libraries can use their experience partnering with government to assist their communities in achieving a fair, accurate, and inclusive count.
  • Education and Community Outreach: Libraries have the opportunity to educate their communities about the Census. In the 2010 Census, more than 6,000 library locations hosted Census Bureau outreach activities.
  • Public Spaces: Census Bureau field staff often utilize community rooms in libraries as affordable temporary workspaces, such as for staff hiring and training. Other community stakeholders may also use library meeting rooms to host events related to the 2020 Census.

"2020 Census", American Library Association, July 24, 2019. (Accessed October 18, 2019)

Webinars and Training Opportunities