Los Angeles Public Library

The residents of the City of Los Angeles speak many languages and Los Angeles Public Library (LAPL) is a great source for anyone who wants to improve their language skills in English, Spanish, Chinese, Korean or money. Through The Language of Money, Los Angeles Public Library leveraged their strength as a civic organization with branches throughout the city, to collaborate with four community-based partners who have expertise in financial education and who also have established trust within ethnic communities. A library initiated needs assessment helped identify financial education topics people wanted to learn about. Interestingly, 53% said they had never checked out library materials on financial matters, yet 77% said they would attend a finance-related workshop at the library.

The Language of Money showcases the electronic resources guide and library subject specialists continuously update the content.

What’s inside the box?

Staff training is an important part of the project and the library was challenged to train staff and to sustain the program with limited staff and resources. An in-house training for branch managers demonstrated ways to promote the community workshops to other staff members and to the public.

Enterprising staff then created another tool called “program-in-a- box” to ensure that financial literacy programs are offered at every single branch in the system. Staff development videos and scripts show colleagues how to hold workshops at their own branches. This video, created by Ann Bowman is called Money Saving Tips. Librarians can contact the author of a program-in-a –box directly to get the resources specific to that program. And the librarians who created them are also available to conduct their program at another branch. “This augments programs offered by community partners and helps us to continually promote the electronic and print resources of the library and answer financial and investment related questions,” said Dawn Coppin, Director of Foundation and Corporate Relations.

Lessons Learned

• “Community members wanted financial literacy programs in their neighborhoods,” said Youngsill Lee, project principal. “Feedback surveys from partners showed that their ties to the library and their own agency’s standing in the community were both strengthened because of the library partnership.”

• “All partners expect to continue the relationships that were built during the project,” said Lee. “Our multilingual partners were able to reach out in their communities and gain new audiences because of the library connection and library staff was also exposed to a new group of people.”

• Budget cuts and personnel changes made it necessary to think about staff training in different ways to support staff development and maintain excellent library service. Program-in-a-box is one innovative model.

Grants awarded in 2009


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