Monday, July 6, 2009

SLA’s 100th Annual Conference
Washington D.C., June 13-17, 2009
Notes from Jim Gillispie

As you might guess, my activities at the SLA Conference focused on the programs of the Social Sciences Division, Legal Division, and Government Information Division. By far the best program this year was “Census 2010: Not your Grandmother’s Census. “ The 2010 census is a significant milestone for academic folks as it marks the replacement of census long form data with the American Community Survey (ACS). For many years the census long form has been used to by government agencies and academics to measure the health and well being of communities by benchmarking their social economic characteristics. Aggregated data from the long form included statistics on education, occupation, commuting, income, and housing structures. The down side of the census long form is:
- Data is only collected every 10 years
- The long form questionnaire is time consuming for citizens to complete and expensive for the Census Bureau to follow-up on when individual forms are not returned.
An ongoing solution to the decennial census long form is the American Community Survey (ACS). In 1996 testing for the ACS illustrated that a continuous survey could provide data that was once only captured every ten years. The ACS has been timed to first release small geography data at roughly the same time as the 2010 decennial census – now with just a short form incouding questions on age, race, Hispanic origin and household relationships. A positive aspect of ACS is that data will be available for small geographies (i.e. census tracts and block groups) for every year after 2010. The annual information will represent information that is more like a three year average then data from a single point in time. This will be a new concept for readers to understand and see how it applies to their specific research.

The 2010 census and ACS represents an exciting time for the availability of new information for library readers. I’m looking forward to sharing this information, and teaching reader how to use the data.

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