The Nebraska Library Commission designed a multi-phase project to meet the growing need for financial education and resources among rural residents. The project focused on three main components: staff training to increase confidence and knowledge; collection development to expand local resources; and a customer financial literacy course to expand financial capability.
The staff training was delivered using technology made possible by a Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) grant. The training was provided to 22 participating libraries across Nebraska. To keep staff engaged, live webinar check-ins were scheduled bi-weekly. Staff could speak with their colleagues across the state about project-related topics. This created a shared sense of accomplishment and built cohesion among the group. Librarians were asked to complete pre- and post-training assessments to document increases in financial literacy knowledge. The results showed that the 65 participating librarians demonstrated increased confidence in their ability to refer library users to unbiased personal finance and investment resources.
The second phase of the project focused on building collections in local libraries with resources chosen from a list compiled by state library staff. Materials were delivered early in the grant cycle, which generated anticipation among staff and patrons.
In the third phase, patrons were offered a four-week course using a curriculum created by Iowa State University Extension staff for the State Library of Iowa’s Smart investing@your library project. The modified curriculum included Nebraska-specific resources aimed at audiences in the three largest demographic groups in Nebraska: Gen-Xers, pre-retirees and retirees.
• “Collaboration with partner agencies, particularly the State Library of Iowa and Iowa State University Extension, was key to our success and the sustainability of our statewide efforts,” said project manager JoAnn McManus.
• “Evaluation results show increased familiarity with key financial topics, and content knowledge increased dramatically,” she continued. “Overall, the training succeeded in meeting objectives.”