Libraries Ensure Financial Literacy Among Americans.

Libraries Ensure Financial Literacy Among Americans.

Libraries are helpful learning centers for a variety of people. Whether you’re curious to learn about a cool new author, interesting new science topics, or even the history of your local community, libraries are there to provide you with the resources needed in your education. Libraries are also a great tool for those in the community looking for help when it comes to becoming financially literate. Low and moderate income families can use the library to help them achieve economic security through a variety of ways. Libraries are capable of providing sound financial education and insight into savings programs that can help these families out in the long run.

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It’s no secret that libraries hold a wealth of information and resources. Those in the community that may not have access to things such as internet or computers can easily fill this need at their local public library. Lack of high-speed internet and computer access is one of the major obstacles when it comes to job searching. With many companies resorting to online applications, having reliable internet access is a huge benefit for those applying for jobs.

In addition, those that are still working on earning skills in industry-related topics are able to use technology at the library to learn. The library offers a variety of programs on the computer for patrons to use from simple word processing applications to graphic design or even laser printing technology. These can be expensive to maintain in a personal home which is why having these resources readily available is important.

The internet is also a useful resource to have for families that need to do extensive research when it comes to making financial decisions. A 2008 Pew study found that people went to the library to research topics involving finances, health, and school. The majority of searches involved “making a decision about schooling, paying for education, or getting training for self or a child.” Other people have looked into taxes, food stamps, and social security/military benefits.

Libraries have been major supporters of financial literacy initiatives early on. This mission was also reemphasized in 2017, when the Institute of Museum and Library Services, to reconfirm their goal to “empower Americans to make independent financial decisions and informed choices in the marketplace, save for retirement, and build individual wealth.” The IMLS has implemented partnerships and funding in place to help families become financially literate. It works with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to provide librarians with tools to educate on financial information. Public campaigns have also been created in partnership with organizations like America Saves Week and Money Smart Week to raise awareness for resources and encourage people to practice healthy finance habits. IMLS grants used to provide financial literacy programs and services at libraries that cover topics such as debt, credit, saving, etc.

Local libraries are also playing their role in helping the public. The New York Public Library hosts a Financial Literacy Central for patrons to use for access. These are free financial resources that are available online and through the library. Community members can also sign up for advising sessions with a financial expert. These 30 minute sessions take place at various times throughout the week and can offer insightful advice on budgeting, savings, credit, and retirement planning. Other resources include crisis credit counseling, personal finance books, and access to Morningstar, Value Line, Dun & Bradstreet, and S&P Net Advantage.

Financial workshops are no stranger to the public library. It’s also common to find programming specifically created to help families from low to moderate income levels learn more about managing finances. The Catawba County Library is hosting a session in collaboration with financial coaches and Operation Hope, Inc. to provide people feel more in control of their finances. “Operation HOPE is a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing financial literacy empowerment and economic education to both youth and adults.” The session is socially distanced and takes place over a live Zoom meeting. They plan to share tips on money management and credit scores. The hope is that the tips and guidance given out will help families achieve long-term financial stability.

The work libraries are putting into helping their communities learn how to become financially stable and literate is impacting families in big ways. The tools that libraries provide to families from lower income backgrounds helps them build solid foundations towards long-term economic well-being. Librarianship is changing lives in many ways. Showing families the skills to become financially literate is just one of the many aspects in which they’re making a difference.