What is a fact? Missing State Library artifacts

Carl Becker once posited the query, what is a fact? In his famous essay, his answer included the following, “And generally speaking, the more renowned a historical fact is, the more clear and definite and provable it is, the less use it is to us in and for itself.” His observations have relevance today.

Consider the steps taken to verify information laid out in a brief paragraph written by the Smithsonian Institute – in response to a survey sent out in 1849 in an effort to “capture the state of public libraries in the United States” – as reported in its 1850 Annual Report.

Included among those libraries that responded to the survey was the Indiana State Library, then consisting of four rooms on the first floor of the Indiana State House and opened daily, Sundays aside, from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. As well as its 7,000 volumes, the library had “some curious Mexican armor and arms; a portrait of Beato Simon de Cassia, painted in 1751; a painting of the ‘Tippecanoe battle-ground;’ 150-square-feet; and a small collection of minerals and fossils.”

If those same items might intrigue patrons today, we shall never know. None still reside within our collection.

Take, for example, the portrait of Beato Simon de Cassia and the Mexican suit of armor. No mention of these items can be found in the library director’s report from 1850-1852. Yet, they are regularly referenced in the Daily State Sentinel, a contemporary and manically partisan newspaper. Indeed, the items became a sort of rope in the heated tug-of-war between the town Whig and the country Democrat politicians.

The Daily State Sentinel was owned by brothers George and Jacob Chapman, who weren’t without a sense of flair. The masthead of their paper carried an image of a Rooster, soon to become the symbol of the Democratic Party in Indiana, and the words, “Crow, Chapman, Crow.”

To understand how this came to be, a little background is needed. The portrait, suit of armor and a book – apparently of less interest – comprised a gift from one John S. Simonson, a military man with one foot firmly planted in Indiana, as his wife, Elizabeth Watson, hailed from Charlestown, and the other in a stirrup riding with the U.S. Mounted Riflemen. Before being elected to the position of Indiana’s Speaker of the House in 1845, Simonson had served one term as a state senator. Soon after his election to speaker, James K. Polk appointed Simonson Captain of the Mounted Riflemen, a post he held throughout the Mexican War. He played an integral part in the siege and capture of Vera Cruz and then spent the next many years fighting American Indians in Texas.

Papers suggest that Simsonson held a good opinion of himself, which might help explain how his gift to the state of Indiana became a point of contention for Indiana Democrats, who argued that Simonson’s gifts were plunder from an aggressive war. On Jan. 30, 1852, proceedings from the State House reveal that Mr. Sleeth, a Democrat, demanded that all material stolen from Mexico during the U.S. invasion be turned over to the local Catholic Cathedral. Mr. Holloway, a Whig, insisted the spoils remain, byproducts of the nation’s defensive war with Mexico. Similar discussions resurfaced, each time less heatedly, for decades, until 1885 when the portrait and book were quietly donated to a local Catholic church.

The fate of the painting of the Battleground at Tippecanoe is uncertain. In an Indianapolis Star article from December of 1929, Kate Milner Rabb laments the condition of a George Winter painting of the Battleground at Tippecanoe, languishing at the State Library. This plea for help appears to have gone unheeded. A painting of the Battleground at Tippecanoe by George Winter is referenced in a letter from the State Museum, in 1980, which explains that if the library transfers the painting of the Tippecanoe Battleground to the Museum, the Museum can then restore it. Might the below image from the State Museum Collection be the said work from the director’s report? We may never know.

From the Collection of the Indiana State Museum and Historic Sites.

While documentation has yet to be uncovered, it seems likely that the minerals and fossils from the early days also winded their way to the State Museum.

The Mexican suit of armor is still unaccounted for. It may have trotted off with a concerned legislator, found a home in a Catholic or a Mexican cultural institution or, perhaps, stands in in a closet, waiting to be found and traced back to Captain John Simonson?

Other matters are less shrouded in mystery. For instance, the state librarian – a job held by both men and women – was a busy person. Reports from the 1850s onwards chronicle a variety of pressing 19th-century duties. The perennial problem of keeping the library’s collection from walking away was dealt with in the 1850s by taking all books out of circulation. Theft was also discouraged by printing the names of delinquent patrons in the director’s report, with inconclusive results. Then, there was the daily foot traffic. Statistics from the librarian’s 1894 report indicate that 6,218 patrons read newspapers in the reading room.

Since the librarian maintained the Statehouse and building for a chunk of the century, their time could be consumed with non-librarian issues as well, such as how to care for the building when it became a military encampment during the Civil War.

And, what to do with the battle flags produced by Civil War regiments? After the flags were ordered to be returned to the State of Indiana by Lew Wallace, they moved around and were displayed in various places. Their time at the Statehouse was not without problems. By the 1880s, one librarian petitioned that the flags be given to either the Geological or Agricultural Department as “the library is no place for a collection of curiosities that draws visitors and creates noise and confusion.” Added to the librarian’s displeasure was the habit of patrons to “tear off bits for relics.” Eventually, the flags found a proper home at the Indiana War Memorial, where they were preserved, and a small percentage are on display.

One senses, also, that the librarian’s needs were never at the top of the legislative agenda. A raise for the state librarian came eventually, near the end of the century, but not the oft-requested iron shelves, an interesting irony as fire prevention was a top priority when the State House was constructed.

One may be dispirited to learn that records were not kept of the comings and goings of certain artifacts, but then one should be encouraged that the state librarian, despite a light salary and a heavy load, chose to answer the Smithsonian survey. As for what to make of the work undertaken to trace an array of objects listed in 1850 – work that included tours of the State House and War Memorial (trips both worth taking), time in the library’s own fourth-floor vault, correspondence with the registrar at the State Museum and an explanation for how the rooster came to represent the Democratic Party in Indiana – consider it a nod to Becker, proof that the value of a fact can be in its unraveling.

This blog post was written by Kate Mcginn, reference librarian, Indiana State Library.

Government information games

Learning government information can be viewed as a daunting task. Most people know government information exists, or can name a government document, but struggle to properly explain or grasp the sheer scope of it. Government information typically gets associated with politics, political science or history. Often viewed as a subject rather than a type of information, government information covers all subjects and is considered a credible and reliable resource. Educators can trust the information presented to be accurate. Government information is also presented in fun engaging ways specifically designed for adults and children. One of the engaging techniques used for children are games.

Many federal agencies create education resources specifically for children and educators. Tracking down all these learning activities can be laborious. Luckily, there are some tricks and resources available to make the process easier. The Indiana State Library’s Indiana Federal Documents blog recently published a Games & Activities page within the Children’s Resources subject guide. Most of the games are targeted for elementary and middle school students and are either standalone games or activities with a accompanying lesson plans. It is important to note that some games require a specific internet browser (e.g., Google Chrome) in order to play. Below are just a few examples of federal agencies creating games designed to engage and educate children.

Recognized by the American Library Association as A Great Website for Kids, Ben’s Guide to the U.S. Government features learning adventures and games create improve student’s understanding of the federal government. The games test students’ knowledge of geography and understanding of the three branches of government. It also has activities designed for various age groups. The website is an excellent resource to begin teaching children about the federal government and civics.

NASA Kid’s Club is a great website that is presented in a fun and engaging layout with games and activities for elementary age kids to learn about NASA and space. The clubhouse has five games that range from easiest,  level 1, to hardest, level 5. All the games support national education standards in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, also known as STEM. The Kid’s Club also includes Info for Parents, Teachers and Caregivers that provide an overview of the games along with related resources to explore.

Ready.gov Kids was created to teach children about natural and manmade disasters. Through games and activities, the website helps them learn about how to prepare themselves and their family in case a disaster occurs. The games page tests kids on a wide range of emergencies and explains how to build an emergency kit through Disaster Master and Build a Kit online games. Ready Kids also features a Resource Library filled with helpful activities, resources and tools.

These three examples represent just a sample of games available on federal web sites. The Games & Activities page also includes links to games from the U.S. Mint, CIA, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, U.S. census and more. All the games are designed to educate children on a particular subject or topic. The page does not represent every game or activity available online. It is not uncommon for webpages or games disappear or get moved to a new site, so keeping a guide current can sometimes be challenging. There are tips one can use to search for a particular game or agency.

Targeted searching can help potentially uncover new resources or activities. USA.gov is an excellent starting point to search for government information. The site allows researchers to search through all available government websites to find information. Keyword searches for “game” or “kids” yield several results from federal – and some state – agencies. One can also use Google to search for a particular government department or agency and include kids in their keyword search to see if a children or education section exists. If those searching tips do not yield a positive outcome, contacting a federal documents librarian can help confirm what is available. Happy playing!

This blog post was written by Indiana State Library federal documents coordinator Brent Abercrombie. For more information, contact the Reference and Government Services at 317-232-3678 or via “Ask-A-Librarian.”

A look at the Reference and Government Services Division’s collection at the Indiana State Library

Did you know the largest collection of material at the Indiana State Library is not from the Genealogy, Manuscripts, or Indiana Division collections, but from the Reference and Government Services Division? The division consists principally of the general collection, non-Indiana related material, government documents and the Indiana State Data Center collections. With the largest collection of material in the library, Reference and Government Services also has some of the state library’s best treasures.

The State Library serves as the Regional Depository for the state of Indiana, collecting all content published by the Government Publishing Office as part of the Federal Depository Library Program. It is not clear exactly when the library joined the program, but the earliest record of involvement is from 1899. The library began collecting government documents from its inception, with the oldest federal document in our collection being the Journal of the Second Session of the United States of America, Begun and Held at the City of New York, Jan. 4, 1790.

The library even has government documents that predate the founding of our country. Before the internet and readily available interlibrary loan systems, most states provided other state libraries with their own printed “state documents.” When Massachusetts shared their state documents, they sent the Indiana State Library copies of the Journals of the Massachusetts-Bay, when it still an English colony, including a set from 1763 to 1785.

The Indiana State Library has been a research library since 1825, but as the library’s mission evolved, so have the collection policies. Since Indiana has a robust public library system, the State Library no longer collects fiction from non-Hoosiers. However, prior to the evolution of the public library system, the State Library bought what are now prized early edition books by the great American authors: Nathaniel Hawthorne, Edgar Allan Poe, Louisa May Alcott, O’ Henry and Mark Twain, among others. One of Twain’s books, “Punch Brother Punch and Other Sketches,” has a letter to his publisher written and signed by Samuel Clemens tipped into the back of the book!

The State Library also has materials that are hundreds of years old, but are new to many. Case in point, this past August, the library hosted “The Mystery of the Darlington Bible” event. The program featured a talk from medieval scholar David Gura about the discovery of this historic work. The “Darlington Bible,” which was donated to the library in 1953 by the family of Frank Graef Darlington, is a 13th century illuminated manuscript bible. The rare bible is considered a new discovery to the medieval scholars’ community.

Sometimes literary treasures appear in odd places. In 1934, playwright Gilbert Seldes recreated an ancient Greek play, “Lysistrata,” originally written by Aristophanes. The Limited Editions Club of New York commissioned Pablo Picasso to illustrate a limited number of published volumes. The library owns copy number 583 which is signed by Picasso!

Another example of discovering a library treasure occurred while searching the General Pamphlet Collection. Rayjeana Duty, Circulation Support supervisor, discovered a rare single sheet of a newspaper, Le Journal Illustré from May 13, 1883. What made this issue unique and special is that it contained articles and illustrations showing the construction of the Statue of Liberty, before it was given to the United States in June of 1885. The images in the newspaper showed not only the Statue of Liberty being built, but also showed various images of the internal structure of the Statue of Liberty.

These are but a few examples of some of the treasures found at the Indiana State Library. You can view any of these ‘treasures’ as they belong to all of us!  Appointments are not required, but are strongly recommended to reduce your wait times while material is being retrieved from our closed stacks. You can reach us at 317-232-3678 or by using our Ask-a-Librarian service.

This blog post was written by Marcia Caudell, supervisor of the Reference and Government Services Division at the Indiana State Library.

Why use the Indiana State Library? Researchers, teachers and students, we’re here for you!

Here at the State Library, we do a variety of things. Our library’s print and online resources cover a wealth of subjects and the assistance we provide gives patrons and data users a vast array of options for finding answers to their questions. Librarians and staff here are cross-trained in assisting with answering questions about genealogy, Indiana history, general reference, data about Indiana, specifics about library usage and research in federal and state government documents, among other topics.

Our library fits a few different categories.

  1. We are considered a research library, and many of our employees have belonged to the ACRL, the Association of College and Research Libraries. Although we are not an academic library – a library associated with a college or university – we do provide access to several in-depth special collections such as our Genealogy, Indiana, Rare Books and Manuscripts, cage and Holliday collections. The State Library is a research library in the broader sense of the term.
  2. We are considered a special library by the American Library Association definition because we are a library that operates within a state government. If you view the history of the library, you’ll see that we were originally created to serve our state legislature. The library’s mission has grown over the years. For a brief period beginning in the 1930s, the library was part of the Indiana Department of Education. We now serve under the executive branch of state government and we are open to the public.
  3. We are also a government information library. Several of our librarians consider themselves to be government information librarians. We handle requests about federal and state government documents and data on a regular basis. The government documents collections here include our Federal Depository Library Program collection, our Indiana state documents collection and our State Data Center collection.
  4. Our focus is on Indiana history. Many of the patrons we serve are looking for the history behind a certain person, group of people or Indiana location. Our history resources include original census records going back to the first census in 1790, county histories and maps of Indiana available from before statehood in 1816, rare family history volumes from residents of Indiana and surrounding states and the largest collection of Indiana newspapers in the world. Indiana history is one of our specialties here, so Indiana State Library staff are happy to help with history questions. Our building is also a living historical artifact. Built in 1934, it contains beautiful architectural details that you’ll need to visit to see. Contact us for a tour of the State Library!

*A friendly research tip, while you perform your research here, remember to collect information on the sources you view. This will ensure you do not repeat research you’ve already done and it helps while you’re creating citations for your reference lists and works cited pages.

In addition to our research collections, we also house the Indiana Young Readers Center and the Talking Book and Braille Library, both services of federal library programs through the Library of Congress – the Indiana Center for the Book and the National Library Service for the Blind and Print Disabled, respectively.

Last but not least, the Indiana Historical Bureau shares our building and is a part of our organization. The Bureau manages the state markers program and runs a highly educational research blog. Their website contains excellent resources for educators here.

The Indiana State Library and Historical Bureau can also direct you to additional resources at the Indiana Archives and Records Administration, a partner agency. Discover more about its holdings here.

This blog post was written by Katie Springer, reference librarian. For more information, contact the Reference and Government Services Division at 317-232-3678 or submit an Ask-A-Librarian request.

Along the Electronic Avenue

One forgets that as the curator of the National Portrait Gallery, the National Gallery of Art, the Library of Congress, the Smithsonian and the National Archives, the United States government sits on a treasure trove of beauty and art, much of which can be had for free.

If one is out and about on the internet, stop by the National Gallery of Art, a wonderful place to pick up a painting. I found these two – one by Manet and the other by Miro – in the free download section.

Say a painting piqued the curiosity of an art teacher or an art student, they can find scores of courses, artwork and kits online at the National Archives and at National Gallery of Art. Preschoolers can examine a Rousseau while middle schoolers can reconstruct a Kandinksky.

Then, there is the poster collection at the Library of Congress, which is comprised of over 85,000 items, and includes commercial artwork. Many posters can be downloaded free of charge here, while other works of art can be purchased here for very reasonable fees, often about $16.Perhaps, it is realism you are after. Check out the Smithsonian, a great place to collect photographs of wildlife and other gems.

Numerous federal sites provide access to informational posters on safety, amendments, Works Progress Administration – also known as WPA – programs, ecosystems and so much more.

My electronic stroll through the galleries, brought to mind the words of William Morris: “I do not want art for a few anymore than education for a few, or freedom for a few.” How fitting that so many entities run by the government offer beauty right along with truth.

This blog post was written by Kate Mcginn, reference librarian, Indiana State Library.

Government Information Day 2022

Registration is now open for Government Information Day 2022. The free one-day in-person conference will take place on Friday, May 20 at the Indiana State Library. GID22 will feature presentations on topics relating to state, federal and census data information.

This year’s theme is “Building Connections. Discovering .GOV” and features speakers from the U.S. Government Publishing Office, Indiana University Wells Library and the Indiana State Library. The keynote speaker for GID22 is GPO director Hugh Halpern, the agency’s chief executive officer. The other GID22 presenters are:

  • Suzanne Walker, Indiana State Library – “Quick Guide & Helpful Resources for Indiana Homeschooling”
  • Kate Pitcher, Government Publishing Office  – “Learning to Love Federal Documents”
  • Katie Springer and Jamie Dunn, Indiana State Library – “Swinging into the 1950s! NARA Releases 1950 Census”
  • Andrea Morrison, Indiana University – “Science.Gov: Gateway to U.S. Government Science Information”
  • Chris Marshall, Indiana State Library – “State Documents in the Indiana State Library Digital Collections”
  • Emily Alford, Indiana University – “Sustainable Strides: Efforts & Open Resources toward Environmental Preservation”

The conference will feature three concurrent presentation sessions, a keynote address and two conflict free breaks to allow attendees the opportunity to meet with exhibitors. The first sessions begin at 9:30 a.m. Eastern Time with the keynote address scheduled to begin at 11 a.m. After lunch, there are two more concurrent sessions, followed by the closing remarks.

The conference program will be forthcoming. Government Information Day is an excellent opportunity learn about new government information resources, improve one’s literacy of government information or network with other Indiana librarians. Additionally, Indiana public librarians will be eligible to earn up to four LEUs at the event. For more information about the conference, click here to get the latest updates. Please contact Indiana regional depository coordinator, and GID22 Planning Committee chair, Brent Abercrombie with any questions, or if you are interested in volunteering at GID22.

This blog post was written by Indiana State Library federal documents coordinator Brent Abercrombie. For more information, contact the Reference and Government Services at 317-232-3678 or via “Ask-A-Librarian.”

Data science professional development opportunities year in review

In 2021, there have been a healthy amount of professional development offerings for Indiana residents interested in developing their data skills. With many of us working remotely for part of the year, these offerings can be explored from work or home.

Earlier this year, Indiana’s Management Performance Hub hosted Indiana’s Data Day virtually over two days in March. You can watch the event here on the MPH website.

The MPH also offers a free ongoing proficiency program in data skills. You can take the classes online and earn points here.

In April, the Indiana SDC Program, IGIC and GENI co-sponsored a webinar with Lorraine Wright, “GIS in the 1700s! Indiana’s Historic Land Record Field Notes Digitized into Online Maps.” The recording is available here on YouTube.

The Census Bureau made several opportunities available upon the release of the 2020 Census PL-171 redistricting data in August. These data provided the basic final counts for the 2020 Census down to the census block level. Take a look at the Census Academy here, with the most recent video at the top of the page, The Comprehensive Course for Accessing 2020 Census Redistricting Data. View additional recorded webinars going back to 2016 here.

In October, also co-sponsored by IGIC and GENI, the SDC offered a webinar for accessing the data, “Accessing Data for Local Redistricting.”

In November, for Indiana Library Federation attendees, the SDC Program provided “Finding and Using Indiana’s Data Access Points, Census and More.” Thank you for those of you who were able to attend under challenging circumstances!

This month, the Indiana State Data Center hosted its annual training meeting online. Our three speakers from the Census Bureau were Andrew W Hait, Ronald Williams and Michael B Hawes. Recordings of these sessions will be available soon and each session will be eligible for one LEU for Indiana library staff.

In the summer of 2022, the Census Bureau will release a file called the DHC, or the Demographic and Housing Characteristics file. This will contain what has been called in the past – Summary File One, or SF1 data – for the 2020 Census. The State Data Center will provide access to the data and training for retrieving the data upon release.

This blog post by Katie Springer, reference librarian. For more information, contact the Reference and Government Services Division at 317-232-3678 or submit an Ask-A-Librarian request.

The US Congressional Serial Set – “So marked a characteristic of the present age.”

At first glance, it may appear that the U.S. Congressional Serial Set is pretty dull stuff. Firstly, there is the sheer volume of material – over 13 million pages, or three-fifths of a mile of shelving.

Then, there is the definition:

The Serial Set is comprised of the numbered Senate and House Documents and Senate and House Reports, bound by session of Congress. The contents of the Serial Set have varied throughout the publication’s history, and at times have included House and Senate Journals, and the reports of executive departments and agencies.

Each volume is assigned a Serial Number, beginning with the 1st Session of the 15th Congress in 1817. Reports and Documents for each chamber are numbered sequentially by either Congress or session, depending on the year of publication.1

Not very glamorous.

Finally, there are the volume titles, comprised of nothing more than congress session numbers and dates.

Not so alluring.

If the reader is willing to dig deeper, however, he or she begins to discover why it is that many consider the Serial Set the jewel in the crown of government documents.

An account of Howard Stansbury’s Great Salt Lake Expedition is such an example.

The spine reads “32d Congress, Special Session Senate, March 4-13, 1851.” In contrast to this stark label, the content is a treasure trove.

Commissioned by the U.S. Army Corps of Topographical Engineers, Stansbury led a group of men, accompanied by mules, supplies and expectations west into Utah. Their main objective was to provide a comprehensive survey of the Great Salt Lake, the Jordan River and Utah Lake. In addition, they were tasked with reporting on the local Indian tribes, the newly-relocated Mormons and the navigability of the Great Salt Lake, all while simultaneously finding a good spot for a military post and a wagon road connecting the Great Salt Lake Valley to the Oregon Trail.

Stansbury and his group did not disappoint. His report was comprised of detailed maps as well as reports on mammals, birds, reptiles, insects, botany, paleontology, chemical analysis of mineral waters and meteorological observations.

As a daguerreotypist did not join the expedition, the volume contains numerous and charming depictions of the people and flora and fauna that dotted the remote landscape.

So important is the Serial Set, that the GPO and the Law Library of Congress have teamed up to digitize the entire collection, even though it is already available commercially.

Perhaps one of the most fascinating aspects of the Stansbury Expedition is that it is but one of many commissioned by Congress and available either digitally or at the Indiana State Library. It is little wonder that in his introduction, Stansbury imagined the reports that came out of the expedition would be of interest to readers as they were “so marked a characteristic of the present age.”

So was the Serial Set 150 years ago, and so it is today.

This blog post was written by Kate Mcginn, reference librarian, Indiana State Library.

1. https://www.govinfo.gov/help/serial-set

 

U.S. government data spotlight: The CDC

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has been a major source for current U.S. data and statistics about COVID-19 over the span of the pandemic with its COVID Data Tracker. While it continues to fulfil its mission to protect the U.S. from other threats to health and safety, the federal agency maintains many online health tools, as well as portals to current and historical data and statistics.

The CDC’s A-Z Data and Stats by Topic includes topics such as chronic disease prevention, which includes multiple health surveys designed to monitor lifestyle and health data; genomics, which directs data users to the NHANES survey and the newer HuGE, a knowledge base in human genetic health data; and vaccines and immunizations, which offers a new data visualization tool called COVIDVaxView Interactive. It allows data users to search vaccination coverage by race, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, poverty-level, place of birth and more at national, region and state-levels of geography.

If you want to dig deeper into the statistics CDC offers, visit the FastStats homepage with direct access to national and state-level health statistics. On the left side of FastStats, data is organized into categories including disability and risk factors, injuries and reproductive health. Visit the page for an A-Z index of over 100 links to health data reports and databases. Each of these links gives you access to the most current national data on the topic as well as related subject, recent reports and data tables and query tools or databases, that offer current and historical data on your health topic of interest.

The CDC’s Vital Signs is a periodical publication featuring the data behind current threats to health in the U.S. and covers measures of impact and ways for prevention. Past issues include topics such as containing unusual resistance, about antibiotic-resistant germs; safer food saves lives, about stopping foodborne health scares; and Hispanic health, which features health data specific to Hispanic/Latino peoples in the U.S. Each Vital Signs page contains articles identifying the issue, visual descriptions (e.g., videos, infographics and maps) and ideas for efforts at the federal, state and local levels to prevent the problem. The Science Behind the Issue section connects data users to the well-known CDC publication, the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, and the newer Science Clips from the CDC Library. Data users are also directed to related Government Information websites and resources at the bottom of each page.

This blog post by Katie Springer, reference librarian. For more information, contact the Reference and Government Services Division at 317-232-3678 or submit an Ask-A-Librarian request.

Redistricting data from the Census Bureau

The Indiana State Library’s Government Information Minute on Aug. 18 detailed the Census Bureau’s redistricting data release and gave the locations of several sources for the new data.

While it’s clear this data matters to demographers, local leaders and policy-makers, how does it apply to us as lifelong learners, the general public and the library community?

A first look at the data shows significant changes in the U.S. population taking place over the last ten years, from 2010 to 2020. While it is too early to tell the impact of COVID and new privacy methods on the national census, the new data says:

  1. The number of people who identify as Native American or Alaska Native – in combination with another race – rose more than any time in history between censuses. See 2020 Census Illuminates Racial and Ethnic Composition of the Country: “…the American Indian and Alaska Native alone or in combination population comprised 9.7 million people (2.9% of the total population) in 2020, up from 5.2 million (1.7%) in 2010.”
  2. The number of people who describe themselves as two or more races has increased more than any time in history, while the number of people who describe themselves as white has decreased. See 2020 Census Statistics Highlight Local Population Changes and Nation’s Racial and Ethnic Diversity: “The Multiracial population was measured at 9 million people in 2010 and is now 33.8 million people in 2020, a 276% increase.”

What makes these population changes so pertinent right now? The nature of diversity in the United States is expanding. Our identity as Americans, in a place where 331.4 million people made their homes in 2020, is reckoning with its past and looking toward its future. These new numbers inform the news we read, the fiction that entertains us, and the media we absorb. Recent events tell us the changing racial and ethnic makeup of the nation’s population affect each of us.

Use the 2020 Census Demographic Data Map Viewer to look for yourself. It allows you to see diversity in race, Hispanic/Latino ethnicity and age groups state by state. You can also read recently released publications and view the following data visualizations from the Census Bureau about population changes between 2010 and 2020.

Publications:
2020 Census: Racial and Ethnic Diversity Index by State
2020 Census Statistics Highlight Local Population Changes and Nation’s Racial and Ethnic Diversity
2020 United States Population More Racially Ethnically Diverse Than 2010
Improvements to the 2020 Census Race and Hispanic Origin Question Designs, Data Processing, and Coding Procedures
Measuring Racial and Ethnic Diversity for the 2020 Census
Race and Ethnicity in the United States: 2010 Census and 2020 Census

Data Visualizations:
Racial and Ethnic Diversity in the United States: 2010 Census and 2020 Census
U.S. Decennial Census Measurement of Race and Ethnicity Across the Decades: 1790–2020

In Indiana, according to the Census Bureau’s Diversity Index, there is a 41.3% chance that two people chosen at random in this state will be from a different racial and ethnic group from each other. While this is not as high on the Diversity Index as California, near the top at 69.7%, it is a much greater chance than in Maine, near the bottom at 18.5%. Hoosiers are in the middle of a shifting state of demography which varies county by county. See the Census Bureau’s map, Second-Most Prevalent Race or Ethnicity Group by County: 2020, from The Chance That Two People Chosen at Random Are of Different Race or Ethnicity Groups Has Increased Since 2010.

As states participate in the redistricting process, decisions matter at the local level. Indiana’s General Assembly website details Indiana’s redistricting process. Public meetings were held at cities across the state from Aug. 6-12 representing each of Indiana’s nine U.S. Congressional Districts. You can watch the meetings on the website. Members of the public can also draw their own maps to contribute to the process. Locations for this will be at 19 Ivy Tech campuses. Ivy Tech librarians will help people use special software. Video instruction will be available on the website as well. More details will follow on the website.

Indiana libraries participated fully in the U.S. census despite COVID disruptions. As the pandemic changed everyone’s plans, we changed our approach to census outreach. Librarians directed energy and knowledge toward census promotion from 2019 through a census year with a changing timeline. Our displays were up. We posted on social media instead of having live events to encourage response. We showed our communities how important it was to answer, and how much easier it was to complete online. When it was safe, we welcomed the public to use our computers to fill out the census. These sincere efforts during disquieted times are what make our libraries the best.

The changing face of diversity, as the story is told by the census, continues its thread through our libraries as well. Following in the steps of the corporate world, libraries are hiring diversity and inclusion officers and holding programs that challenge patrons to think seriously about current events. We all have a role to play in the future of our communities. What will yours be?

This blog post by Katie Springer, reference librarian. For more information, contact the Reference and Government Services Division at 317-232-3678 or submit an Ask-A-Librarian request.