The Forest Park Public Library is providing assistance to patrons filling out the 2020 Census and is giving away free masks and other swag to promote the Census. | Photo provided

Skye Lavin, adult services manager at the Forest Park Public Library, wants to “demystify the process” of responding to the 2020 Census.

In charge of the library’s Census activities, she wants residents to know that the library is a one-stop-shop for anyone who hasn’t yet completed their Census this year.

“Census 2020 is the first primarily online Census and also the first to unfold during a pandemic,” said Lavin in an email. “Even in challenging times, public libraries like ours are partners working to bridge the internet and information access divide in our community.”

Residents who haven’t yet filled out the Census are invited to do so at the library, which will provide assistance.

“The Forest Park Public Library staff will demystify the process and answer questions,” said Lavin. Computers will be provided, and staff will help patrons navigate the website.

The library not only offers help in filling out the Census but has taken on the role of communicating the importance of the 2020 Census and “how it will affect the lives of Forest Parkers,” said Lavin. “Forest Park’s response rate will help decide our political representation and funding levels for infrastructure like roads and bridges, healthcare, education, housing and social services for the 10 years to come.”

And who doesn’t love swag? The library received a $2,000 Census Equity mini-grant from the American Library Association to promote participation in the Census. They purchased “beautiful, double-layered cloth face masks with the Census response URL printed right on it as a bright reminder,” said Lavin. The masks also have the FPPL logo.

T-shirts, face masks, hand sanitizer and other fun items were given to the library for distribution by Reaching Across Illinois Library System (RAILS), and the FPPL will be distributing these gifts at the information services desk as long as supplies last until the last day of the Census on Sept. 30.

In addition, Mayor Rory Hoskin’s office can be contacted for one-on-one assistance to complete the Census online. Forest Park residents can call 708-615-6203 to schedule an appointment.

As of Sept. 3, Forest Park’s Census 2020 response rate was 69.3 percent. The village’s goal is 85 percent.