Today I attended the Nebraska Library Association (NLA) Public Library and Trustee Section (PLTS), School Children’s and Young People’s Section (SCYP), and Paraprofessional Section Spring Meeting in Seward. And I’m learning so much from David Drozd, University of Nebraska Omaha (UNO) Center for Public Affairs Research, about how to use the census data website. I can really see how this would be very useful for lots of libraries across the state. NOTE: there’s still time to catch his workshop at the remaining Spring Meeting sessions tomorrow and next week. See http://nlc.nebraska.gov/scripts/calendar/eventlist.asp?mode=search&search=NLA%20Spring%20Meeting for locations. If you can’t attend one of the workshops, the slides will be posted on the NLA PLTS website: http://www.nebraskalibraries.org/group/PLTS .
As PLTS Vice-Chair Francine Canfield pointed out, census data is very useful for public libraries as they facilitate their community planning process—fulfilling the requirements for Public Library Accreditation and ensuring that the library continues to build collections and offer programs that respond to the changing needs of communities. For example with five times the level of growth in seniors expected in the next ten years, we can think about working with senior citizens in our communities to plan programs that appeal to them and meet their needs. With demographic trends showing that although Nebraska communities used to see lots more older women than older men, men are now catching up and we can expect to see eight older men for every ten older women in the near future.
Census data can also be very powerful in communicating with decision makers, community residents, and the media, etc. (See http://nlc.nebraska.gov/stats/2018AdvocacyFlyer.pdf for an example of a recent flyer staff at the Nebraska Library Commission developed using data from the public library survey and the census.) One workshop participant pointed out how useful this demographic information is for grant writing. Since library staff are often asked to help library customers access demographic data, the information in this workshop is presented in a modified Train the Trainer format to help library staff feel more comfortable pointing customers to helpful resources.
In addition to the census information that can be accessed from American Fact Finder (a series of filters that allows us to drill down to specific data sets by community), the UNO Center for Public Affairs Research has developed Nebraska Quick Facts on the UNO website (https://www.unomaha.edu/college-of-public-affairs-and-community-service/center-for-public-affairs-research/programs/nebraska-quick-facts.php ) with quick reference tables showing population loss/gain between 2000 and 2010—some of these tables go back to 1880 for certain communities—and other quick facts including population estimates.
Looking at the wealth of information we can access from census data has left me looking forward to 2020 and hoping Nebraska librarians will encourage our community residents to participate in the census: Take 10 minutes for 10 questions every 10 years.
Thanks for sharing all this great information, Mary Jo Ryan