We want to make libraries the go-to place for financial information in every community. And so far, we’ve been met with tremendous enthusiasm – from other government and nonprofit agencies, by library associations and administrators, and by librarians themselves. That’s why we’ve put together resources and materials for libraries to use in their community.
We started this project about a year ago by listening to a group of nine librarians who agreed to work with us. After we announced the initiative in April, the number of libraries that wanted to participate swelled to nearly 50 library systems. Last week, we announced a partnership with Rhode Island’s Office of Library and Information Services, our first partnership with a state-wide impact, increasing our reach to more than 100 library systems. More importantly, these 100 systems have more than 450 branch locations that receive more than 76 million visits a year.
Libraries are highly trusted in virtually every community and eager to serve more people in their neighborhoods. They’re also unbiased, so they provide a safe place to research financial options, decisions, or solutions to problems.
In 2010, libraries served 297.6 million Americans. And despite shrinking budgets, hours, and staff, attendance at library programs is increasing. Recent surveys also indicate that parents and low-income individuals view libraries as important resources. About one quarter of the people who use library computers log on for commercial needs or to manage their personal finances.
Started by listening
So we gathered nine public libraries – some that had conducted highly innovative financial education programs in the past and some that had never done financial education before. We asked them: “What could we do to help you do more financial education? What are your constraints, limitations, and needs?”
We also surveyed more than 700 library patrons. We asked them if they would go to the library for this information, what they thought of libraries, and what types of programs they’ve attended in the past.
Ready to roll
Now we’re rolling out our first set of program ideas, online resources, and free government publications that librarians can order in bulk.
We’ve also created a guidebook to help librarians find and develop relationships with other organizations in their communities that can help present or support financial education programs.
We’re working with the American Library Association and other library associations and organizations to spread the word about financial education best practices and engaging program ideas.
It’s important to note, too, that this is the starting line, not the finish line. We’ll continue to add and update resources, publications, and partners. So check back with us often and watch us grow!
If you’re a librarian and are interested in getting involved, send us an email.