Unexpected Ways Libraries Save People Money
Library users certainly save lots of money by borrowing items, taking free online classes, and attending fascinating events, but that’s far from all. Here are some examples of ways most people wouldn’t expect to save money from using libraries:
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My name may not be Geico, but recently, I saved one elderly lady money on her car insurance. She came in bearing a mailer from AAA and asking for help getting on the computer so she could complete a driver training course which wouldn’t work on her iPad.
After getting her online, we went to the AAA website and tried to login only to find out that she had already created an account — a year ago. The proliferation of passwords is one of the needling difficulties of digital life, a fact we face daily at the library. We clicked “Reset Password”, but she did not know her email password. Her disappointment was obvious. Okay, I said, maybe you can go home and get your iPad so we could retrieve the reset email from there! Don’t worry, I’ll be here to help you when you get back.
30 minutes later, she returned with her iPad, we got her password, filled out the necessary online forms, and were in! One training later, she walked out of the library with a lower auto insurance payment and a big smile. She also gave me her email address so she could be notified the next time the library offers computer classes. She’ll be a great student!
They say that information is power, but if that is so, then information literacy is the secret passcode by which that power is activated. Edward (*not his real name), is a retired lawyer and mediator. After a few years of retirement, he became interested in returning to mediation, a practice he loved.
Edward used the library computers to create an updated resume and began combing the web for job leads. One day, he signed up for time in our study room to do a phone interview. As he told me more about it, my ears perked up. The job seemed a little too good, so I asked for more information, and checked out the firm’s website. Be careful, I told Edward, and explained why. He nodded and thanked me.
As it happens, my hunch turned out to be correct, the “interview” quickly became a sales presentation. And the work offer? Nothing more than a pitch to be listed on their site. Pay them (a lot) up-front, and hope it will pay off with clients. Unlikely, I told Edward. Though libraries regularly have classes about fraud prevention and other consumer affairs topics, the skills to critically assess claims found online (and off), even those that aren’t technically fraudulent, are vital for saving money. Edward will find work, but I don’t want him to go broke doing it.
Financial lives are often shaped at an early age; parents and other role models are expected to teach and demonstrate personal finance skills to their kids, but we know that it doesn’t always happen. Schools teach basic financial literacy, but many people aren’t aware that many libraries also do their part.
With the growth of services for teens and young adults over the last 30 years, teen services librarians have stepped up to bring finance education to their service population. “At public libraries across the country, adult services, business, reference, teen, and children’s librarians are stepping up to guide people to resources and programs about budgeting, avoiding scams, investing for retirement, repairing credit, and making informed decisions about managing money…” writes Margaret Monsour in the Public Libraries Online article “Libraries Innovate with New Financial Programs”. But don’t take Ms. Monsour’s word for it, a simple Google News search reveals countless other examples like the “Thinking Money” exhibit at the Saratoga (CA.) Library, which pairs an exhibit with interactive activities and panel discussion led by award-winning radio host and journalist Thuy Vu.
These library initiatives are important. They provide a kick-start into responsible financial lives for the youth in their communities. The outcomes of these workshops, panels, classes, and exhibits is not one, but countless stories, mirroring the many unexpected ways libraries save people money.
4 — In Conclusion…
…The skills of librarians are not limited to helping people find books. Librarians can help people in ways wholly unexpected even to regular library users. The above stories come directly from my own personal experiences, but they aren’t at all uncommon in the lives of librarians. Library lovers know that libraries give people a sense of discovery, they stoke curiosity, and inspire in so many ways, but let’s not forget that they also aid in the nitty-gritty aspects of life — like saving money!