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A National Partnership Supporting Financial Literacy at the Library

April 16, 2014

By Susan Hildreth
Director, IMLS

I was delighted to be part of a Money Smart Week (April 5-12) event last week at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, where Richard Cordray, Director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) announced a partnership with public libraries to help make financial information and educational resources available to library-going public.

As you can read in our April Project Profile, providing financial information is sometimes difficult for librarians. The profile details the challenges of staff at the New York Public Library and how the IMLS-funded Money Matters project helped train library employees to find new ways to answer patrons’ personal finance questions and host presentations by experts on these issues.

The CFPB initiative, Our Community Financial Education Project, aims to make a difference. The partnership with IMLS, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, and the USDA’s Cooperative Extension System; other national organizations like the FINRA Investor Education Foundation and the American Library Association; and nine local public libraries will help create resources that will be available to all libraries.

To help launch the effort, I participated in a panel discussion, with Public Library Association President Carolyn Anthony, Brooklyn Public Library Director of Adult Learning Kerwin Pilgrim, and CFPB Senior Content Specialist Dan Rutherford. A recording of the panel is now available.

No one expects librarians to be financial information experts, but we do know they can provide a solid base of information and develop a deeper knowledge of trusted financial resources that are in their communities and available nationwide. For example, last year IMLS made a grant to the Reference and User Services Association (RUSA), a division of the American Library Association, to create national guidelines and best practices for financial literacy education (FLE). These resources will be freely available on the RUSA website and aim to substantially improve how libraries offer FLE services, helping to fill a nationwide service gap.

I’m hopeful that with the combined talents of library staff, RUSA guidelines, and CFPB resources we can improve financial literacy in our communities. And working together we can raise awareness among public officials and other stakeholders about the trusted role that libraries play in communities as learning centers for developing 21st century skills, especially in digital, health, and financial literacy.