Brooklyn Public Library, Brooklyn, NY

Brooklyn Public Library engaged adult and teen patrons through a series of learning activities and services tailored to the borough’s diversity of audiences. The project had several components, including: integration of financial concepts into existing adult basic education programs (such as GED preparation programs and English for Speakers of Other Languages); virtual investment clubs for adults and teens; teen financial literacy workshops; and financial empowerment fairs held in conjunction with the New York City Office of Financial Empowerment and the Bedford-Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation.

Key Activities: 

  • Provided training for library staff on connecting low- and moderate-income library patrons with the financial information and services they need. The training was delivered in partnership with The Financial Clinic, an organization committed to empowering the working poor through social innovation.
  • With assistance from the Coalition for Debtor Education, trained the library’s adult services staff and adult basic education instructors on integrating personal finance concepts into the library’s adult basic education programs, including work readiness, high school equivalency education, and ESOL programs (including business English classes for more advanced ESOL learners). Instructors subsequently introduced lessons on goal-setting, budgeting, banking, credit, insurance, comparison shopping for financial products, avoiding identity theft, and reading account statements into their classes.
  • Prepared a financial literacy curriculum guide and accompanying student workbook for use by the library’s Adult Learning Department staff.
  • Added personal finance concepts to the training provided to the library’s volunteer literacy tutors, who work with adult learners to help them achieve their educational and employment goals.
  • Conducted investor education seminars in conjunction with the library’s five Adult Learning Centers. The Investing 1.0 series addressed investment choices, setting investment goals, understanding online investing, and understanding investment costs. The Investing 2.0 series covered choosing a broker and understanding mutual funds and ETFs, among other topics.
  • Conducted the project’s adult virtual investment club with an investing 101 “bootcamp” and sessions on risk, risk tolerance, diversification, portfolio development, common investment vehicles, and managing an online account. Participants (both experienced and novice investors) created and monitored their mock portfolios using a virtual stock exchange platform. They also learned how to research companies and use the EDGAR database and other tools available at the library.
  • Conducted a “financial bootcamp” for student-leaders participating in the teen virtual investment club. The bootcamp provided an introduction to the stock market and addressed topics such as risk, return, and portfolio development. The bootcamp used curriculum resources available through Knowledge@Wharton High School. The teen participants created mock portfolios for an “investment challenge” using a virtual stock exchange platform. They also attended monthly follow-up meetings to explore investing topics in greater depth. Participants learned how to read financial reports, calculate ratios, and use stock selection tools. Teens who completed at least 20 hours of training became club “Victors.” Three high-performing club Victors participated in the Wharton High School Investing Competition, matching their skills against 175 teams from high schools around the world.
  • Hosted stand-alone workshops and presentations for participants between the ages of 12 and 19. The workshops covered saving, banking, goal-setting, paying for college/financial aid, and understanding your paycheck.
  • Organized financial empowerment fairs to coincide with Financial Literacy Month (April). The fairs included sessions on achieving financial stability, financing a college education, boosting credit scores, avoiding fraud and predatory practices, and exploring the library’s personal finance and investing collections.
  • In partnership with the Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation and the New York City Office of Financial Empowerment, provided one-on-one financial counseling for library patrons.

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