Four Financial Literacy Ideas for Your Library

Financial literacy can be both an intimidating topic to learn and teach. In October, we explored it in our Making Cents of Financial Literacy: Tech Tools and Innovative Programs webinar.

Our presenters came from libraries of different sizes:

They shared the innovative ways they're making financial literacy fun — for both patrons and staff!

1. Hold Financial Literacy Webinars

Aubrey shared how the Florence County Library System did a webinar series for both patrons and staff. The system has six branches spread out across the county, and it isn't always convenient for staff to come to the main library to attend training.

Aubrey said the webinars have been a great way to get staff up to speed on financial literacy. The library also teamed up with local financial organizations, such as the South Carolina Department of Consumer Affairs, which offered a library staff training. 

The library hosted a few financial literacy workshops for patrons at the library, including one on retirement planning.

Using webinar technology, the library was also able to invite patrons who might not have had the means to get the library that day. Financial literacy + accessibility = win!

2. Host a Tech-Savvy Program for Teens

While a "teen lock-in" might sound a bit strange, the event was a roaring success for the Florence County Library with 189 teens attending. Teen lock-ins are after-hours events hosted by libraries.  

The idea was to make financial literacy fun by letting teens take over the library with money-related games, scavenger hunts, and the kicker, free pizza. The library got the word out about the lock-in through social media.

Aubrey said the library got the game ideas from the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority's (FINRA) list of tools for teaching financial literacy (see the "Simulation Games" category). Staff mainly used the FINRA games as a guide and adapted them for the event.

3. Make Financial Literacy Videos with Patrons

The Georgetown County Library is huge on local history, said Heather. As part of its financial literacy programming, the library started recording video interviews with local seniors about the Great Depression and other financial challenges.

Library staff edited the videos in Adobe Premiere and then burned the videos to DVDs, which are available for checkout. The videos are also on the Georgetown County Library's YouTube page via the Georgetown Memories playlist. 

GCL Video Production

In addition, the library worked with local kids to create "financial fitness" commercials, which ran on local cable channels as well as on the library's YouTube channel. The 30-second commercials publicize financial literacy resources the library provides.

But before the kids can become TV stars, they have to attend a few classes:

  • Day 1: a basic financial class with games and lessons.
  • Day 2: a video production class where they learn how to use video production technology, such as cameras, green screens, and microphones.
  • Day 3: Action! The kids get to shoot and star in their own commercial.

"Adding a video component put things in a whole new direction for us. We've preserved history, we've bolstered our publicity efforts, and we've even stayed relevant with the next generation. What more could we ask for!" said Heather.

4. Crib from the New York Public Library's Money Matters Pro Website

Kathleen Kalmes is a former financial advisor who wanted to bring her skills to the New York Public Library.

When she started developing a financial literacy curriculum for the NYPL about 10 years ago, she discovered two things:

  • Library patrons did not expect to find financial information at the library.
  • Library staff did not feel comfortable giving financial advice.

But wait … librarians shouldn't be giving financial advice! Kathleen wanted to instill a mantra of "Information! Not Advice" at the New York Public Library.

With some help from an IMLS grant, she put together a financial literacy program for not only the New York Public Library, but also libraries all over the world.

The Money Matters Pro website  offers a complete curriculum to help libraries share financial literacy information with patrons. The site provides 11 classes, covering important topics such as retirement, credit, banking, identity theft, and so on.

The NYPL staff is required to take the three core classes (banking, credit, and retirement) and two electives of their choice. The ultimate goal is to get librarians comfortable giving financial information.

The website offers resources for library directors or trainers to replicate the curriculum. This website is completely free for any library to use and is consistently updated with new material.

More Resources

In addition to FINRA's tools and resources, the IMLS and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) partnered to develop financial education tools and share best practices with public libraries. You can also watch a replay of our Making Cents of Financial Literacy webinar and find more resources on our event archive page.

Does your library offer financial literacy resources? Have you held events? Tell us about them in the comments.

Images: Courtesy of the webinar presenters