Curtis Memorial Library

An intergenerational approach to learning, discussing and discovering how to make money work is the foundation of Money Works for Women, a community conversation among women ages 25-75.

It all started with a broad-based survey that showed 87% of women who responded were interested in the possibility of a program. 63% indicated an interest in topics such as savings for retirement and budgeting during retirement. The added knowledge that women are comfortable learning about financial topics from each other convinced the library to launch this service innovation.

The program includes a series of speakers followed by either an investment education club meeting or an alternating book discussion. “In essence the club acts as a practicum for participants to try out their investing skills in a non-judgmental and non-threatening environment,” said library director, Liz Doucett. The program recruits speakers who address the unique needs of women in midlife transitions and women entering retirement. Younger women just beginning to think about retirement, women dealing with the loss of a spouse or the end of a career all had ideas and experiences to contribute in a supportive setting that encourages frank discussions about money management.

The end result, based on survey data collected every month, indicated that 95% of the women said the skills they had learned made them more confident in managing their money and that these skills were practical and relevant to their lives.

Marketing Messages

One of the first things Doucett did was sit down with staff and talk about whether they wanted to market to people who already used the library or people who didn’t use the library or both.

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“It was important for us to figure this out because the answer would determine what marketing tools made sense for our program,” she said. They decided to focus their marketing primarily on people who already use the library because such a large percentage of their community has library cards – over half. They figured that if they got a good response from this group they knew it would be a good start to the program, with the expectation that they would also bring in new users as a secondary focus for their marketing.

Flexibility Can Be the Fix

Getting your arms around a marketing plan for a new library service can be daunting but it can also be an opportunity to experiment with new types of marketing. Staff had originally planned to use radio advertising but two big disadvantages changed their minds. It was too expensive and covered too broad a geographic area (Southern Maine.) Next they tried Face book advertising and it worked to drive local awareness to the program. Inexpensive ads were geared toward women based in Brunswick and two smaller, neighboring towns Topsham and Bath Maine. They then coupled newspaper advertising with an email to appeal to their large retirement age community and the combination worked to also attract the younger age range of their target audience.

Lessons Learned

• Data collection and surveys played a big role in demonstrating program success. Survey responses at the end of every program showed that the majority of attendees learned something new at each event and they also expressed out loud how much they liked to hear women in different age groups express their perspectives.

• “We asked at every program how the participants learned about the program and it was a mixture of newspaper stories, email reminders and notices on the website and Face book,” said Doucett. Programs that target multiple age groups should keep in mind that marketing should include both traditional and cutting edge marketing tools.

• Be willing to try out new ideas and adjust as you go. “We started out trying to figure out the right way of running this program. We finally got smart and realized there was no right way because this whole concept is fairly new.” And according to Doucett, “That is very freeing because it means that you can then start experimenting and substituting to make the whole thing work well.”

Grants awarded in 2010


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