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Libraries as Financial Literacy Hubs

Public libraries are well positioned to support the financial literacy needs of their communities.

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The ways in which financial issues relate to people having the power to make choices, lead healthier lives, and grow stronger communities is right in line with the mission of public libraries!

Libraries have always served the information needs of their communities, and with changing economies and technologies, we’ve seen an increase in the connections made across all 21st century literacies addressed by public library services. From basic to digital literacies, and from health to financial literacies, libraries are seen as trusted and unbiased community information hubs which, in most cases, are free to all. With more public libraries in the U.S. than McDonalds (over 17,000 branches and bookmobiles) and 320,000 public libraries world-wide, libraries are well positioned to support the financial literacy needs of their communities.

There are a number of examples demonstrating how libraries are addressing these needs. Here is a short list that shows the scope of some of these financial literacy services:

  • Money Matters, a series of workshops and e-learning modules created by the New York Public Library.

  • Project Money, created by a team of adult learners who wanted to help other learners feel more confident in handling their money. Based at Project Read at the San Francisco Public Library, they helped develop the web site, a workbook, workshops and other materials. Read more about it in this Public Libraries Online article, Project Read Gets Smart with Money.

  • Pathway to Personal Financial Skills, a resource created by WebJunction to help libraries understand the impact of the economic downturn on personal financial stability, and how they might provide resources, training and programs to help patrons get better control of their personal finances.

  • The Public Library Association lists a number of financial literacy resources for libraries and their users, including

  • Money Smart Week @ your library, a national initiative between the American Library Association and the Federal Reserve Bank (Chicago) that provides financial literacy programming for libraries to help members of their communities better manage their personal finances.

In submitting this contribution, we are drawn to a number of questions:

  • What are the best ways libraries can serve the financial literacy needs of their communities?

  • Are there best practices for libraries in providing multi-generational programming for financial literacy?

  • How can public libraries of all sizes better facilitate a community-developed solution to financial literacy needs?

We’re excited to be joining the OpenIDEO community and look forward to sharing ideas with others committed to transforming communities.

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