Multnomah County Library

The project team at Multnomah County Library is reaching out to help two high-need audiences: seniors susceptible to identity theft and financial fraud and “parents at risk” defined as low income and low literacy individuals.

Let’s go for a Ride

Librarians created and piloted a mobile learning lab that uses tablet computers and touch screen technology to reach seniors in retirement centers. Called the MoneyTime Learning Lab, it is not a vehicle that runs on gas, but this “mobile lab” takes seniors where they want to go.

MoneyTime aggregates information from public and government sources and attractively groups the information with colorful icons. After this pilot, content was integrated into a revised website with a dramatically different search function. A senior’s experience is enriched because all the information, in multiple formats is conveniently located in one place. One senior’s ah ha moment, “It’s like Google but it’s all right there,” captures a new awareness that librarians offer a path to unbiased financial resources.

Location, location, location

The library’s long-standing partnership with Head Start enabled them to continue their strong tradition of early childhood programming. With a focus on personal finance, Head Start parents and employees of Head Start agencies learned techniques to teach their children about money and how parents can model good financial habits. With coaching from participating early childhood development experts, Head Start staff was happy to reinforce and extend essential financial literacy messages and to make referrals to the library.

Co-locating the library programming at Head Start sites “made a meaningful difference in [parents’/grandparents’] ability and likelihood to participate,” in part because Head Start programs provide transportation and childcare services at no cost to participants. Parents said that “they were much more interested when they found out there would be a speaker who would talk about how to teach kids about money.”

A follow on grant expands the library’s reach to new opportunities and a partnership with Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program. A book distribution component is built into the program and the library programs are delivered at WIC sites.

Lessons Learned

• We tested many outreach methods with this grant- from mobile labs to Head Start outreach. This grant helped us clarify what the library brings to financial literacy that no other organization in our community can do. Librarians are information experts at providing patrons with timely and accurate referrals to reliable, unbiased resources to meet their needs.

• Our computer labs worked because we were able to go into senior housing and community sites where the library already delivers books and programming. Directors know the individual residents and actively recruited attendees on our behalf to help fill the classes. The directors are on-the-ground allies and made sure that the labs reach the intended audience and have the greatest impact.

• People respond best to programs that are social, supportive and fun. Well attended parent nights at Head Start created an atmosphere of excitement and learning. We successfully tried pairing our volunteer CPAs with holiday shoppers and travel agents for programs that integrate budgeting skills with planning expenditures for fun things.

Grants awarded in 2009; 2012


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