Financial Information Literacy Services at Your Library

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Many people don't like to talk about their finances. And, even though personal finance is on everyone's mind now, that doesn't mean we are all equipped to make good choices on how to manage our money or even know where to find the information we need to make good decisions. There are some new ways libraries can distribute information in a Web/Library 2.0 world. Librarians can use tools such as Second Life, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube to share crucial information about the great resources available and to remind people that a library can be an excellent source of unbiased investing information.

Saving money, investing for a comfortable retirement, sending children to college--these are topics of enduring interest to library users. In this anxious time of global economic recession, the need for accurate, current, unbiased financial information becomes even more crucial, as does help in finding and understanding that information. How can libraries meet this information need? What new methods can libraries use to get this information out?

With support from the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) Investor Education Foundation [http://www.finrafoundation.org] and the American Library Association, [http://www.ala.org], a network of 25 libraries [http://smartinvesting.ala.org] is now making resources available to more than 8 million patrons at libraries nationwide through Smart investing@ your library. Created in 2007, the pilot project (2007-2009) included grants totaling more than $853,000 to 13 libraries and led to the extension of the project into a second round of applications. The FINRA Foundation and ALA recently selected an additional 12 libraries and awarded more than $882,000 for projects that began in February 2009. Many of these libraries use new ways to reach out to their patrons, including YouTube, the virtual world of Second Life, and other social networking tools.

Smart investing@your library reaches the grass-roots level by supporting the efforts of public libraries to provide quality financial and investor education to library patrons. Are libraries giving financial advice? No, but they are creating model programs and outreach strategies to serve "investors" wherever and whenever they gather or find learning convenient during their busy lives, whether in their communities, at the county fair, in the virtual spaces of Second Life or YouTube, and, of course, at welcoming libraries across the country.

The term investor is used broadly and means anyone who wants or needs financial information. Investors include the patron in Milwaukee who needs to know how to get a free copy of her credit report, the parents of young children in Youngstown who want to know how to set up a college savings plan, or the single mom in Kansas who needs to understand how to shop for a mortgage.

The Public Library Route

Why public libraries? "Public libraries are ideally positioned to serve the financial information needs of their communities and to do so without a sales pitch or a hidden agenda," said John Gannon, president of the FINRA Investor Education Foundation. "With the help of these programs, Americans can turn to their libraries to get the best available financial information to make smart decisions for the family's financial future." The mission of the FINRA Investor Education Foundation is to provide underserved Americans with the knowledge, skills, and tools necessary for financial success throughout life. Through awards and grants, the Foundation manages projects focused on financial and investor education.

FINRA investor education content modules include topics such as Preparing to Invest, Bank Products, Types of Investments, and many more. The modules are licensed free of charge to grantees and are part of programming that libraries develop. …