High-Tech Census: Dallas Public Library Readies to Help Bridge Digital Divide

With an estimated 40 percent of Dallasites lacking fixed internet service at home, the library offers online access to the city’s residents.

Dallas Public library census

The 2020 U.S. Census is rapidly approaching and residents are mostly being asked to respond online, making it the nation’s first high-tech population count.

While many people are comfortable online, a large segment of the population isn’t. That puts an onus on Census volunteers and advocates to help those people overcome a digital divide.

Among the groups helping prepare for the 2020 Census are the nation’s public libraries, and the Dallas Public Library system is ready to step in. After all, public libraries have been working for years to give digital access to all populations, and that includes completion of the 2020 Census.

Heather Lowe, adult services administrator for the Dallas Public Library system, is a member of the Dallas area’s complete count committee, the group working to support the federal Census efforts locally.

Dallas Public Library system will set aside computers for Census

According to Government Technology magazine (GovTech), Lowe is aware that Dallas is one of the nation’s least-connected major cities, with an estimated 40 percent of residents lacking a fixed internet connection at home.

Lowe said all system’s 28 locations will have computers set aside specifically for the Census to reduce wait times. DPL also plans to have staff members trained specifically in how to assist residents with the Census.

“If you asked any of the public service staff at the library what they do all day, they would say they help people set up email, create resumes, and sometimes figure out how a mouse works,” Lowe told GovTech. “Our staff is really patient with people who don’t know how technology works.”

Library puts Census-related messaging in its outreach

Lowe said she expects many residents to look to the libraries as the ideal place to complete the Census.

The Dallas Public Library is integrating Census-related messaging into its community outreach efforts in schools, neighborhood events, and community centers. GovTech said the big push in the Dallas area will also be reaching non-native English speakers. DPL has English language learning at 26 of its 28 locations.

“Anywhere we go, we’ll be spreading the message about the Census,” Lowe told GovTech.

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