Census Highlight: Rio Grande City Public Library and Norma Gomez Fultz

Amidst a global pandemic, Norma Gomez Fultz at the Rio Grande City Public Library (RGCPL) has continued to push for a complete count in the 2020 census. With the census only 79 days away, we want to acknowledge how RGCPL has embraced the challenges that have resulted from the COVID-19 pandemic and share our interview with Gomez Fultz. In this interview, Norma shares with us some of the work that RGCPL is doing around the 2020 census.

Tell us about yourself and how your journey at the Rio Grande Public Library.
My name is Norma Gomez Fultz, and I was born and raised in Rio Grande City. I left for a brief period, at the time there was not a public library is our county. In 1990, Starr County Public Library was established, and I became the first Assistant Library Director. In 2005, the City of Rio Grande City took over the county’s public library, which is when I became the Director of the Rio Grande City Public Library. We have grown from having to stamp due date slips to being a fully automated library.

I Count, Rio Grande City Billboard.
Rio Grande City Public Library was able to secure a local billboard at the center of town to promote the 2020 Census.

Why completing the 2020 census is essential to Rio Grande City and Starr County?
Rio Grande City is in Starr County. This area has a large immigrant population, both documented and undocumented, from Mexico as well as Central America and South America. Historically, our region has been undercounted, so informing and encouraging everyone in our area, they will understand why the census matters. It will help to determine the federal resources we are eligible to receive for Rio Grande City schools, roads, housing, hospitals, public safety, and other vital programs. Additionally, participation in the 2020 Census will determine how many members of Congress we can elect to fight for our interests and help to guide our state to draw voting districts.

How has COVID-19 impacted your library programming and outreach, especially around the census?
When we took the lead in the Census 2020 efforts, we had a great marketing plan and timeline. We were able to hire three people to form our Census team. Included in our programing were neighborhood block parties and advertisements on local billboards and local radio live remotes. Due to COVID-19, our efforts have shifted. We are now going to food distribution sites to pass out information. We also have partnered with Rio Grande City police, fire, public works, and other departments that will participate in some of our census programmings.

Partnerships are essential to the success of any library programming and outreach services, can you tell us about any partnerships that your library has developed to get the word out about the 2020 census? Were these partnerships your library had in place or were they recently developed?
We are on the Rio Grande City Complete Count Committee, which is comprised of a broad spectrum of government and community leaders from advocacy, education, business, healthcare, faith-based, and elected officials. We also on the Starr County Complete Count Committee, comprised of local mayors, city and county officials, education, healthcare, and others. We have formed some new partnerships and strengthened others. For example, the County of Starr did not receive a Census 2020 grant, so we have shared resources with them to distribute throughout the county.

Despite the challenges the Rio Grande City Public Library has currently been facing, can you share some things that your library has done to promote the 2020 census?
We have promoted the census on local radio and television stations, newspapers, and billboards. We have purchased marketing incentives such as pens, pencils, hand-held fans, bracelets, and koozies. We also have passed out fliers in English and Spanish and created a Spanish Informational Census Video (video will open in a new tab).

Looking forward, are there any upcoming events, programs, or services that you are excited to share with us?
We are organizing Census Reminder Parades throughout varies Rio Grande City neighborhoods. Joining us on these parades will be the Rio Grande City police, fire, public works, water, library, EDC, and other departments. We will also have a RGCCISD school bus, a Starr County Hospital vehicle, a Metro bus, the Sheriff’s Department, and more. We have added a dedicated Census Hotline number for anyone to call with questions or concerns and we will be purchasing hot spots, so our Census team is not limited to the library or city hall.

https://www.facebook.com/cityofrgc/videos/345269166502121/
Rio Grande City’s 2020 Census Neighborhood Parade occurs every Friday at 2:20 PM. The parade includes a lineup of vehicles from different local agencies and city departments that would be supported through census funding which directly goes back into expanding services for our community.

Thank you, Norma, for taking the time to participate in this interview and for the incredible work that the Rio Grande City Public Library is doing.

The last day to complete the census is on October 31, 2020, so there is still time to ensure a complete and accurate count. You can stay up to date with a map of self-response rates across the U.S. and Texas by using the links below:

For more information and resources, visit our TSLAC Census 2020 webpage at www.tsl.texas.gov/ldn/census2020 or 2020census.gov. If you have any questions related to the 2020 Census, contact Laura Tadena, Inclusive Services Consultant, at ltadena@tsl.texas.gov.

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