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Financial Literacy @ Your Library

by on March 15, 2013

Financial literacy may be on your mind at this time of year, as the annual swarm of patrons with  income tax questions buzzes by the reference desk. Of course, not being financial experts ourselves, there are a lot of questions we can’t (and shouldn’t) answer. Your library may already host or refer to VITA and AARP volunteers, but there are other things you can do throughout the year to ensure your patrons are prepared for financial challenges across their lifespans. The need for financial literacy at the public library is as diverse as your patrons. So how do you begin to incorporate it into your library’s programming?

One easy and great place to start is the Public Library Association’s own financial literacy resources page. The sites linked there cross all age groups and include games for kids, direct services for patrons, and also opportunities for libraries to apply for funding. One of the most significant sources of funding for public libraries looking to create new and innovating financial literacy programming, linked on the PLA site, is Smart Investing @ Your Library. This partnership of ALA and the FINRA Investor Education Foundation has awarded 94 grants totalling over $7 million since 2007.[1] Even though libraries must be invited to apply for the grants, rather than submitting to an open request for proposals, the Smart Investing website includes its own set of resources for libraries, including downloadable tools, promotional multimedia, and lessons learned from the projects that can be applied to other libraries.

 Possibly most useful, though, is the list of libraries that have participated in the grant, with their project descriptions. Regardless of whether your library is invited to apply for a grant, these projects can help you brainstorm ideas to jump-start your own programming. Some inspiring examples include:

  • Chesapeake Public Library (VA)’s Jim Blanton became a 2012 Library Journal Mover & Shaker with his FINRA-funded creation of a financial literacy game, $ave $teve.
  • Dakota County Library (MN) used its grant to design a year-long series of programs called “Know Your Money” that offers fun financial literacy lessons for all ages.
  • Multnomah County Library (OR) received multiple years of funding to implement and continue traveling financial literacy labs that bring touch-screen-based trainings to vulnerable populations.
  • San Diego Public Library (CA) is partnering with local nonprofits to provide a seamless continuum of financial services to local military families.
  • Hartford Public Library (CT) is focusing on educating young adults and families with children, including college partnerships and integrating financial literacy into their summer reading programs.

Those are just a few ideas. What are some ideas you’ve had, challenges you’ve faced, and/or successful programs you’ve launched at your library?