Shaler North Hills Library plans to assist the community during census -

Shaler North Hills Library plans to assist the community during census

Thursday, March 19, 2020 | 11:00 PM

In Mid-March, households will receive an important mailer with instructions for responding online, by phone or mail.

Responses are vital in determining the amount of federal funding allocated for hospitals, fire departments, schools and infrastructure. Feedback also determines each state’s number of U.S. House of Representatives seats.

It’s U.S. Census time.

The Constitution mandates that the country conduct the census every 10 years to count every person residing in the United States and its five territories. According to the U.S. Census website, “the 2020 Census will mark the 24th time that the country has counted its population since 1790.”

The Shaler North Hills Library (SNHL) is a census hub designed to assist patrons with their questionnaires. Although all Allegheny County libraries, including SNHL, currently are closed due to the coronavirus pandemic, the hub will serve patrons when the library reopens. Beth Lawry, adult services manager, expects the hub to remain operational for a couple of months.

Lawry attended American Library Association and Allegheny County training in order to assist the public. She will lead a census presentation at 1:30 p.m. April 13. Register at or by calling 412-486-0211.

She learned the census query comprises 10 questions taking approximately 10 minutes to answer.

Lawry recommends — especially given medical officials’ recommendations for social distancing to prevent coronavirus’s spread — that people complete their census questionnaires online at Participants may enter the codes from their mailers or home addresses to complete the forms.

“Libraries obviously give computer access to lots of people that don’t have it. … We made a little station where you can sit with a dedicated laptop and work through the census as well,” she said.

“if you’re not comfortable doing it online, there’s dedicated phone lines, I believe in 13 different languages, which covers like 99% of the country. And then there are also written and video guides and those are in 59 languages. So, we can help people find those.”

Call 1-844-330-3030 to complete the census in English. Check the census website or call the library at 412-486-0211 for guidance on answering the questions over the phone in another language.

In this time social distancing, SNHL will provide census consultations over the phone or social media, once the library reopens.

“If you can choose to do the census online or by phone or even by paper first, then no one will come knocking at the door. Door knockers are like the last of defense to get accurate numbers,” Lawry said.

The U.S. Census Bureau is legally bound to keep answers confidential.

“They do not ask for your Social Security number. They don’t ask, and they can’t share it with Immigration (and Customs Enforcement). They can’t share it with any other federal agency, and they can’t share it with your employer. So those are all, you know, important in terms of the security piece for sure.”

It’s important to differentiate between library and census employees, she said, because the latter of whom take lifetime oaths to protect respondents’ personal information.

Lawry wants to promote the importance of devoting the time to respond.

“People don’t connect it to money and services that their community gets. So, one of the statistics they gave us was, like, if a family of five chooses not to report, or they get missed somehow, it’s like, $100,000 over the 10-year period that your community would not get.

“We want to encourage everyone to do it and we are here to help as much as we can. So that’s, the big message.”