Through “Living Better, Spending Smarter“, the Toledo-Lucas County Public Library and its many partners provide individual coaching services and a five-part Financially Fit 101 series based on the FDIC Money Smart program. In addition to the Money Smart sequence, the participating library branches are offering a menu of financial workshops taught by educators from Ohio State University Extension, the regional Social Security Office, and BetterInvesting. Scheduled classes and workshops are positioned as gateways to one-on-one financial stability services offered by East Toledo Family Center, Lutheran Social Services, and United North (a community development corporation).
Census tract information helped to locate programs in branch libraries serving low-income and economically marginalized neighborhoods and to draw community attention to available financial education from United Way and other partners. “We also wanted to demonstrate that the library should be the first place that residents think of when they need financial and investment information,” said Project Director Linda Koss. “We want to be a clearinghouse for information about our community partners and their services.”
In addition to the popular twice yearly 101 series, a second series called Financially Fit 201 was created for several of the branches, because attendees demanded new programming. The 201 series allows previous attendees to continue learning and increase their knowledge.
Marketing Programs with Appeal
The library also presents popular, single-night informational programs that deal with personal finance topics such as couponing, student loan debt, ID theft prevention, credit reports and thrift. Marketing messages are delivered through print, display, and Facebook promotions, along with three video PSAs prepared in collaboration with public television station WGTE. The library has enlisted 40 community partners to help with marketing efforts, including churches, community centers, barbershops, and other businesses in the county.
When program planners realized that a group of seniors arrived by van from the local senior center, librarians contacted the center directors and took the program to the audience. “It’s an opportunity to forge partnerships between the library and senior centers while expanding our programming to the many seniors in our communities,” noted Koss. Feedback from surveys has been positive, with 97% of attendees of the single-night programs reporting they found the information useful and plan to make positive changes in their financial lives.
• Marketing efforts were most successful through one-on-one referrals from librarians and personal contacts with local organizations. “Identifying other agencies that have an interest in financial literacy, especially churches, is helpful because they are willing to take our materials and will likely steer people to our programs,” said Koss. “Groups who received our mailed promotional materials welcomed it, asked questions and suggested other sites where we could deliver promotional materials.”
• The library is making plans to build the program beyond the grant. Koss explained, “We don’t want to lose the momentum—or the community expectations—that have developed because of our financial education programming.”