Salt Lake County Library Services, West Jordan, UT

Salt Lake County Library and the English Skills Learning Center coordinated basic financial education for recent refugees and immigrant families with low income and limited literacy skills (even in their own languages). The program integrated financial instruction into well established services for the target audience, and increased participants’ skills related to the U.S. banking system, budgeting, credit products, and financial planning. The local refugee and immigrant population arrives in Salt Lake County primarily from Burma, Iraq, Bhutan, Somalia, Eritrea, Afghanistan, and the Congo. The project partners helped these communities: (1) master the vocabulary and understanding to conduct banking transactions, create a budget, recognize predatory lending practices, and avoid fraud; and (2) comprehend asset-building strategies and plan for the future.

Key Activities: 

  • Worked with the English Skills Learning Center and Utah State University Extension to incorporate financial education concepts into the instructional program for low-literacy clients. This was accomplished in consultation with the local International Rescue Committee, the Refugee and Immigrant Center (also known as the Asian Association of Utah), the Salt Lake County Office of Community Innovation, the Utah State Office of Education, and other nonprofits serving immigrant communities. The partners—known collectively as the Family Prosperity Initiative—prepared 47 lessons, 92 worksheets, seven concept videos, and financial literacy and numeracy kits, all leveled for limited-English-proficient and otherwise low-literacy individuals.
  • Conducted train-the-trainer sessions for instructors from various community agencies, all of which provide direct services to the project’s target populations.
  • Delivered financial literacy instruction through English language learner classes held at the library and at various community agencies. The instruction was segmented for students with beginning, intermediate, and advanced English language skills. The partners also developed a module on financial numeracy for learners who have never received mathematics instruction, either in their home countries or in the U.S. The instruction addressed banking, budgeting, financial planning, credit products, and the consequences of using credit.
  • Incorporated practical financial capability lessons into introductory citizenship classes provided by the International Rescue Committee-Salt Lake.
  • Conducted financial literacy camps and after-school programs for immigrant youth in partnership with Utah State University Extension, local schools, and 4-H.
  • Produced videos for promotional purposes. The local public broadcasting service helped with voiceovers in Spanish, Somali, Arabic, and Bhutanese. The videos were part of a larger marketing plan that included focus groups with the target audiences (primarily Sudanese and Somali refugees), print displays, partner outreach, electronic communications, engagement with immigrant communities, and earned media coverage.
  • In partnership with Utah State University, conducted a series of stand-alone workshops for low- and moderate-income adults at library branches. The workshops focused on understanding credit, reviewing credit reports and scores, avoiding predatory lending, and paying down debt.
  • Organized classes in English and Spanish on preparing financially for college.

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