Every ten years, America counts its population to determine where federal dollars should be spent during the next decade. The accuracy of a state’s count impacts how much of that federal pie will flow in. A bad count can cost a state millions of dollars, impacting the funding of necessary services. When America wrapped up its Census 2020 enumeration on October 15, the Census Bureau reported that 99.9% of Oklahomans had been counted, thanks to self-response and Bureau field operations… and LIBRARIES. Read on to see how Oklahoma’s public libraries helped with this year’s count.
America’s libraries were uniquely positioned in 2020 to play their most important role ever in a decennial count of the country’s residents. The U.S. Census Bureau set a high goal for the 2020 effort: 70% of Census self-responses would be online. As dependable providers of internet access, Oklahoma’s public libraries were ready and excited to help their communities get online to complete the Census and assure an accurate count.
The Oklahoma Department of Libraries launched a Census website in the fall of 2019 to help libraries and the public stay up-to-date and informed on preparation for the count. ODL appropriated federal dollars from the Institute of Museum and Library Services to support Oklahoma libraries’ efforts. The funds were used for a “Get Counted at Your Library” initiative that provided promotional materials for all public libraries. The funding also provided 16 grants to help communities target hard-to-count populations and improve Census responses. The agency held a Census Solutions workshop for libraries and literacy councils to brainstorm ideas on reaching hard-to-count groups, developing grant proposals, and identifying local partners to aid the count.
Fifty Oklahoma institutions and organizations have been awarded Digital Inclusion Grants totaling $290,000 from the Oklahoma Department of Libraries, courtesy of the Institute of Museum and Library Services and the CARES Act legislation passed by Congress.
This is the second of the CARES Act grants that ODL has awarded. The first grant addressed the health and safety needs of libraries and cultural institutions. You can see these PPE Grant recipients here. Together, the two grants provided $350,000 for COVID-19 response.
This second grant was designed to help public libraries, tribal libraries and cultural centers, adult literacy programs, and museums expand access to their digital services and enhance digital inclusion in their communities. The current pandemic has been a harsh reminder of the digital divide that exists in our state and nation, and ODL planned these CARES Act grants to help more Oklahomans access important services online.
The Oklahoma Department of Libraries has awarded 64 grants to public libraries, tribal libraries, tribal cultural centers, and museums to help the institutions purchase personal protective equipment, cleaning supplies, customer safety supplies, and other materials and equipment to help keep their staff and visitors safe during the COVID-19 Pandemic.
The funding is courtesy of the Institute of Museum and Library Services through the federal CARES Act legislation. ODL and other state libraries received funding to help libraries and cultural institutions respond to the public health crisis.
The federal directive is a means to help with safety measures in response to COVID-19 and to help institutions with digital inclusion efforts. The pandemic has thrown a spotlight on America’s digital divide. ODL is also offering a grant opportunity to help improve digital inclusion at libraries, cultural centers, and museums. The digital inclusion grantees will be announced in July.
PPE grant recipients and award amounts are listed below by Oklahoma’s U.S. Congressional Districts and then by city or town:
Every January or February, ODL Director Susan McVey and Deputy Director Vicki Sullivan head to the State Capitol Building to meet with the Oklahoma Senate and House appropriations committees to report on past agency accomplishments and to answer questions about the ODL Budget Request, which was submitted the previous October.
During the hearing, we share our successes and expenditures in a way to demonstrate the agency’s accountability to our lawmakers and the state’s taxpayers. Some of the information we put together is used by Oklahoma Library Association members for advocacy purposes as they visit with their legislators.
Later in the spring (usually in May), Director McVey heads to Washington, DC with a group of Oklahoma librarians for National Library Legislative Day to talk about library funding and policies with our U.S. Reps and Senators.