San Diego Public Library

San Diego is home to 230,000 active duty service members, veterans, Guard and Reserve members, and their families. More than half of active duty personnel are 25 years or younger.

The library’s financial education program Start Here: Your Road to Smart and Savvy Personal Finance focuses in part on meeting the unique financial challenges (such as deployment) facing this population. Many young spouses deal with a myriad of challenges while their spouses are away. They are often far from home and living on their own for the first time, juggling the demands of raising children and managing family finances on a limited budget.

Expanding Partnerships

The library turned to its partnership with Fleet and Family Services, which offered financial assistance workshops in branch library locations near Naval installations. More than a 1,000 participants attended workshops on budgeting, creating financial goals, bank products, credit repair and investment basics. A second partner, Home Start, Inc., was brought on board because of its expertise providing youth development and family support services through home visits and at its Financial Opportunity Centers in high-need neighborhoods throughout San Diego County. These centers bundle employment services, financial coaching and income support to help clients achieve self sufficiency. With the help of these partners, the library’s program has been able to include one-on-one counseling, family activities, community resource fairs and six-week workshop series at city library locations. The library also partners with the San Diego Unified School District to bring multimedia financial literacy activities to high school students. Four student created You tube videos point the way to developing money management skills: Identifying Your Goals; Setting Your Financial Goals; Starting an Emergency Fund; and Managing Debt. A special financial education resource event called “Summer of Savings” coincided with the library’s summer reading program and library staff welcomed over 280 military families from nearby military housing to branch libraries.

Materials Matter

Sustaining the program is a priority. The library reached out to other regional and national organizations with resource fairs and presentations to share information and to support the growing demand for financial education. Staff created a personal finance e-resource guide and established financial literacy centers at six participating library branches to distribute resources and to promote collections and learning opportunities. With Fleet and Family Services, they participated in a resource fair sponsored by the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society and shared information with 300 military ombudsmen. They also made presentations to the Navy Relief Center and to the Riverside County Library System which is interested in developing programs for its own veteran population.

Lessons Learned

• The project evaluations revealed that a great majority of workshop attendees were repeat customers. 50% of the people who attended the first session returned to attend at least one other session, and 32% attended either five or six sessions,” said Project Principal Sheila Burnett.
“64% said fundamentals such as budgeting and how to read a credit report and build good credit were the most popular topics.”

• Our family programs were very popular, and we will continue to offer these activities.
We also learned that one-day workshops are more popular and better attended than a series of workshops,” noted Burnett.


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