Highlights of this year’s conference for me were the lunch keynote by Minnesota’s Secretary of State Steve Simon and a session on the 2020 Census.
Mr. Simon focused on the important role libraries play in helping patrons get accurate information about candidates and issues, as well as practical information such as how to get registered to vote, where polling places are located, and how to vote absentee. He is a definite cheerleader for Minnesota’s record of having, in most years, the highest voter turnout in the country. He encouraged everyone to be sure to make use of all the resources on the Secretary of State’s webpage https://www.sos.state.mn.us and to contact him directly with any questions. Best of all, he is a life-long library user!
The session on “Census 2020: What Libraries Need to Know” gave me so many tools and ideas for helping people understand the importance of getting an accurate count, show them how to access the forms online, and assist them in getting answers. Rachel Dame discussed the need for census workers, how they would contact those who haven’t responded (census count will be mainly online this year), what training they get, the oath of confidentiality they sign, and how they can be identified by residents. Paper copies of the census will be available for libraries to hand out, but copies cannot be made as they each have a unique code on them. For those of our patrons who have housing issues, the library address is an option for them. The help desk for the Census offers Hmong, Spanish and Somali, and questions/answers remain anonymous. There are also options to use a “Tool Kit” if you are hosting an event, and promotional items can be purchased for these kinds of events. One often overlooked reason to promote an accurate count for our rural communities, is that businesses use this data when they are considering opening another store or branch in a community. So for those of us who keeping asking why we don’t have a Target, here’s a reason to be active in getting everyone counted. Much information is available at https://mn.gov/admin/2020-census, and the site is updated weekly. The first mailings will go out March 12 – 20. I also always try to attend at least one of the MN Assoc. of Library Friends sessions, and I always come back with great info and ideas: MALF gave out over $10,000 last year, including programming grant money. If you need to find out about your Friends group from past years, such as if there was a change in leadership or records were lost, try the State Annual Report that all libraries have to file. There is a section on Friends groups in that report. One Friends group held their annual meeting in conjunction with their book sale. Great way to get people to attend. Check out the MALF website for a wide range of helpful information. http://mnlibraryfriends.org/ I hope that more librarians from our region submit proposals to do sessions (kudos to Jody Wacker from Pipestone for doing a session on escape rooms) because there was a definite lack of small/rural library options this year. Thanks to Prairielands for the scholarship to attend the 2019 MLA!