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January 28, 2015 - Helping Patrons with Financial Information Needs
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"Risk comes from not knowing what you're doing." -- Warren Buffett

Addressing personal finance information needs for your community can be intimidating. Financial literacy is no longer just setting a budget, buying a home and car, paying taxes, and making a will. Personal economics is much more complex for everyone. Grappling with a myriad of financial decisions such as mortgage types, insurance policies, 401(k) investments options, home equity lines of credit, 529 college savings products, credit cards, identity theft, car leases and estate planning is assumed these days. The steps to financial literacy are more challenging and essential, yet for the most part individuals are left on their own to improve their financial lives.

Libraries can help fill this learning gap but this requires an informed staff. To help staff develop competence in handling personal finance and investing topics, the ALA and FINRA Investor Education Foundation have developed several training resources through their Smart investing@your library® initiative. The resources include webinars, manager tools and a series of 15 online courses.

The webinar series was designed by a team of librarians and financial educators to expand knowledge and skills related to personal finance topics. The webinars include:

  • Six Fun and Easy Financial Literacy Programs and How To Do Them
    Learn the elements of successful financial literacy programs with proven and adaptable models.
  • Helping Library Patrons Put Their Financial House in Order
    A financial educator and reference librarian use real-life scenarios to tackle questions and review basic financial concepts that come up frequently at the reference desk.
  • Beyond the Basics of Personal Finance: Helping Library Patrons Help Themselves
    Explore financial questions that go beyond the basics with scenarios about saving and investing, retirement planning, researching the background of financial advisors and more.

The Staff Development Toolkit helps managers shape and evaluate training programs for library staff. There’s also guidance for managing a library’s personal finance and investing collections, and a curated list of online resources for responding to patrons’ money-related reference questions.

Finally, the series of staff development courses called, “Helping Library Patrons with Financial Information Needs” covers 15 financial topics to help staff improve reference strategies and knowledge of financial literacy concepts and resources. This series is based on the online course Smart Investing@the Library: Reference Strategies and Resources. It was developed by the Santa Clara County Library District in cooperation with InfoPeople to train staff on personal finance reference strategies and resources.

The topics include:

  • Personal financial planning and budgeting
  • Banking and banking products
  • Credit
  • Home Ownership, mortgages, and real estate
  • Financing education
  • Insurance
  • How to invest
  • Investment options
  • Retirement
  • Social Security
  • Children and Money
  • Personal finance during difficult times
  • Protecting finances and identity
  • Getting help
  • Estate Planning

All of these resources are now being used by libraries across the country as they develop programs and services in the area of personal finance. The Virginia Beach Public Library, for example, recently received a Smart investing@your library® grant to develop personal finance programs for a diverse community. The library staff was initially hesitant about developing the programs because they had little experience with financial literacy programming.  Ashley Barrineau, project principal of the grant, introduced these training resources to library staff. She reports, "Staff involvement and training are important.  I shared the staff training materials with some of our key adult programming staff, and the feedback has been wonderful.  They have gotten a lot out of it, and the impact of the training is really encouraging as we move forward with our ideas."

These resources are free and available through the Smart investing@your library® website under Staff Training.