Ames Public Library

Whether patrons needed to save for college, get a mortgage, or plan for retirement—Ames Public Library organized its financial education offerings based on patron need by age group. The focus was on three age groups: Generation X, Baby Boomers, and seniors—the Silent Generation, for a series of workshops delivered online and in the library.

Try as they might to segment the offerings, patrons found their own paths to the information. For example, a retired Chinese woman attended a class aimed at Gen Y. Turns out, she mentors international students at a local university.

Driving participation

Reaching each demographic required a robust marketing mix. Weekly radio sagas ran concurrently with a written column in the newspaper and signage in the library. The digital campaign included monthly calendar postings and e-mail blasts to key organizations that had the right target audiences. Each partner pushed messages out to  their constituents.

Tough times and the need for information

The faltering economy played a big role in boosting interest. People left wanting more. “Many commented that they wanted a full six weeks of classes.”

Making a difference

The impact was immediate. Although the library really tried to encourage people to attend courses that fit their demographic, the reality was that people were so eager to get unbiased information, they chose sessions based on convenience. People repeated courses as a review. One patron explained, “Now that I know the material, I can listen better.”

Lessons learned

• Be careful about tapping presenters from the community. “We spent time reaching out to find the most unbiased content partners we could. Patrons trust us; our credibility was on the line.”

• Be open. Be flexible. “When we discovered that the issues were so common among the age groups, we let go of our ideas about grouping people.”

• Be willing. “I remain convinced that offering this type of information is a valuable role for libraries.”

Grants awarded in 2007


Looking to take your library’s financial literacy efforts to the next level? Connect with ALA’s Financial Literacy Interest Group.