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Helping Patrons Navigate Online Banking

by on December 2, 2019

by Anne Ford aford@ala.org

In the old days, doing just about anything with your money—getting cash, looking up an old statement, depositing a check—meant visiting a brick-and-mortar bank. These days, cash mostly comes from ATMs, looking up a statement is as easy as logging onto the computer, and anyone who can take a photo with a mobile phone can deposit a check. But as efficient as they are, some of these technological advances have left some populations behind: people who are older, don’t have bank accounts, are less educated, or earn less money are likely to lack the necessary computer skills to use mobile banking. 

Now, thanks to a collaboration between Capital One and the Public Library Association (PLA), hundreds of seniors and unbanked (those who do not have bank accounts) or underbanked (those who have bank accounts but also use alternative financial services such as payday loans and auto-title loans) individuals have become more comfortable with the world of mobile banking. The collaboration draws upon Capital One’s turnkey financial wellbeing curriculum designed to help people navigate the world of online banking: Ready, Set, Bank (in English) and Listos, Clic, Avance (in Spanish). The curriculum consists of an online library of 44 microlearning videos, each no more than two minutes long, that cover topics such as the benefits of online banking, staying secure online, getting started with online banking, best practices for money monitoring, and performing common banking functions online. 

Capital One reached out to two library systems as launch partners: Houston (TX) Public Library and Queens (NY) Public Library. Over the past two years, about 500 people have taken part in Ready, Set, Bank or Listos, Clic, Avance through these two libraries. In January 2018, Houston Public Library (HPL) became the first library system to roll out Ready, Set, Bank, which it implemented in seven of its branches as well as in a local senior center. 

On HPL’s end, one reason the program was such a success was that it required no additional resources. “We have meeting space, and we have technology already, so we did not have to purchase new equipment,” points out Nicole H. Robinson, deputy director of Houston Public Library (HPL). “That’s the beauty of why libraries are uniquely positioned to support this program. 

Like HPL, Queens Public Library (QPL) sees a lot of patrons in need of greater financial literacy. “Our customers are job-seeking. A lot of them are looking for new opportunities or a career change. And as part of that, a lot of them also need to learn how to manage finances,” explains Monique Hector, who manages QPL’s Job & Business Academy, adding that Listos, Clic, Avance excellently complemented the library’s English to Speakers of Other Languages Job Search program and Spanish-language High School Equivalency workshops. Since QPL rolled out the program in 2017, it has seen about 400 participants complete it. And it has expanded from its original six locations. In fiscal year 2020, it plans to offer the programming at 12 branches—Ready, Set, Bank at six, and Listos, Clic, Avance at six. 

Participants in the programs reported increased confidence and ability to securely bank online and a commitment to use the online banking tools they had learned. For more information on how the Houston and Queens Public Libraries integrated Ready, Set, Bank into their programming, look for the full article, “Helping Patrons Navigate Online Banking,” in the November-December issue of Public Libraries, which mails mid-December.