Starting Points

To get started building your program, make sure you have a clear understanding of the current climate in your own community. Assess your circumstances by looking at the situation in your state, identifying your target audience, reviewing library staffing and considering current library collections. Be sure to review the Financial Literacy Guidelines for expert guidance and best practices.

1. Know Your State

The FINRA Foundation’s National Financial Capability Survey presents findings for each state illustrating key aspects of savings, managing money, financial knowledge, decision making and more.

2. Know Your Audience

Customizing your program for a target audience means doing things their way, not your way. In a library system, that can be difficult. Learn tips and examples from Multnomah County Public Library’s successful Smart investing@your library project®.
Download PowerPoint Slides | Download companion Worksheet doc

Gen X Pre and Post Test

Developed by the Extension Office at Iowa State University, in collaboration with Ames Public Library, this pre/post test was used to establish baseline information and to determine level of understanding following class presentations.
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Market Research on Millennials and Investing

This study from the FINRA Foundation and CFA Institute examines Millennials’ financial knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors, and compares them to Gen X and Baby Boomers.
Visit Study

3. Know Your Staff

Staff training plays a critical role in developing and sustaining financial literacy programs. Librarians are skilled at helping people navigate available information on a topic, but when it comes to financial literacy, these information tools are constantly evolving, so it’s important to keep up. The staff training resources on this site help libraries do just that.

Another staff consideration is whether to integrate financial literacy into existing programs or create new programs. Depending on your target audience, embedding financial literacy programs and activities into existing, already popular library activities ensures good attendance and improves the sustainability of programs. Summer reading and English as a Second Language (ESL) programs are two examples of leveraging existing programs with well-established audiences for both children and adults.

Staff Survey on Investor Education Content

What reference sources would you use to answer these questions about investing? Timberland Regional Library used this tool to help develop their staff training.
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Staff Financial Knowledge Survey

This general knowledge quiz is a template and overview of stocks and bonds, savings, credit and more.
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4. Know Your Collections

Quality financial literacy programming depends in part on well maintained personal finance collections. This involves culling outdated items and purchasing up-to-date print materials, ebooks, audiobooks and access to financial databases. Importantly, it also involves connecting collections with the people who need them. Libraries are creating deposit collections at locations where they have identified a need for the resources. The Georgetown County Library (SC) established personal finance depository collections at the county detention center. Pioneer Library System (OK) discovered that adults participating in their programs at employer sites preferred to access personal finance collections at the workplace rather than at the library. Alternative high schools, Senior Centers, and Head Start programs are a few more examples of deposit collection locations.

For many libraries, this represents a sea change in library collection development and outreach activities. No longer is the library building the sole repository of community resources. Rather, as many have done with financial literacy programs, librarians are taking valuable resources to where the need is and overcoming barriers that might prevent community engagement.

Now click on model programs for more ideas. You’ll discover a wide variety of audiences engaged in successful financial education programs plus the helpful Lessons Learned feature.


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