Tote bags with census resources for residents. (Courtesy photo from Josiah Gilliam/ City of Pittsburgh)

COVID-19 disrupted the census. But accurate counts are needed to guide aid, recovery efforts and maybe even vaccines.

For almost two years, the City of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County have been working together to intensively prepare for the 2020 census. The hardest-to-count populations were identified for targeted outreach; community leaders were pulled in to champion the cause; “census hubs,” where residents could go to have their questions answered, were planned throughout the county. 

Perhaps the one thing they didn’t plan for was a pandemic. “We had 150 designated locations throughout the county ready to go, and then the pandemic hit,” said Jessica Mooney, the county’s manager of special projects. Now, getting a complete count is not only harder — it’s also more vital. Census data dictates federal funding levels to local and state governments for food access programs, affordable housing, health systems and more.

SUBMITTED Bayne library

From wizards to mentoring, Allegheny County’s public libraries are vital, sometimes noisy spaces

Established in 1994, the Allegheny County Library Association has 46 member libraries over 70 locations, including 19 branches in Pittsburgh. The organization brought the county’s independent libraries together with the city to help them stay relevant. Today, many of them are vibrant learning spaces for adults and children alike. To highlight the changing and varied roles libraries play for residents, PublicSource explored how four libraries serve their unique communities.