By Victoria Merlino
Libraries will be an integral part of New York City’s 2020 U.S. census plan, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on Thursday, with more than $1.4 million going toward funding library census outreach and education.
“New York City has been on the front lines of the resistance against the Trump Administration and ensuring every New Yorker gets counted is central to our fight,” de Blasio said in a statement. “We cannot let the federal government silence our diversity of voices. Our partnership with the public library system will help all New Yorkers stand up and be counted.”
The cash influx will help pay for new technology like laptops, so New Yorkers can take the census online, plus staff training, marketing and operational support.
“Serving the most diverse place in the country, with branches in many of the hardest-to-count census tracts, Queens Public Library is ready to make sure everyone is represented no matter who they are or where they come from,” said QPL President and CEO Dennis Walcott in a statement.
The new funding comes after a protracted fight to put a question regarding citizenship on the census — a move that activists and New York City leaders alike thought would depress turnout as immigrants feared ICE crackdowns. In Queens, a borough with over 1 million immigrants, the question would have posed a particular challenge and likely would have discouraged some people from completing the census. A report from the U.S. Census Bureau highlighted distrust of government and concerns about privacy as major factors toward why people don’t respond to the census.
The citizenship question has been tabled for 2020, but the library initiative is a step by the city government to win back some of that trust.
Community-based immigrants rights groups like Make the Road New York will also be doing their part to get all New Yorkers counted.
“Make the Road New York's Census Outreach Initiative will work alongside City government and our libraries to ensure a complete count of our communities,” Co-Executive Director of Make the Road NY Javier Valdés said in a statement. “Together, we will send the message that low-income and immigrant New Yorkers are Here to Stay and must be counted.”