State Library of Iowa

Two years ago, Ames Public Library developed a Smart investing@your library® project by designing a marketing campaign and delivering workshop content online and in-person for three distinct audiences: Gen X, Baby Boomers and the Silent Generation. The Ames Public Library worked with Iowa State University Extension and the Iowa Insurance Division to create this program model.

The effectiveness of the Ames partnership enabled this local innovation to expand beyond the town boundaries. Building on the experiences at Ames, the State Library of Iowa successfully brought the program to scale taking it to 25 communities to connect patrons in rural locations to quality investor education resources.

Making the Sandwich

The program uses a “sandwich” approach, beginning with a face-to-face session at the library conducted by Extension staff. The opening session introduces basic concepts and reviews a series of web-based courses. Participants then select one of three online courses piloted under the original grant to the Ames Public Library: Starting Out (for Generation X participants), Building Up (for Baby Boomers), and Making it Last (for retirees). The web courses are taught by Extension faculty taught the course with “guest chats” and discussion contributions from speakers at the Iowa Insurance Division. The online learning is then capped by a final face-to-face meeting at the library, again taught by Extension field specialists. This concluding session gives participants the opportunity to discuss and review what they have learned online and become acquainted with additional library resources on personal finance and investing.

Each of the 25 libraries received more than $600 worth of financial resources for the core collection. Library staff members received training on use of online resources with their patrons and support from the State Library designed marketing plan that included a word-of-mouth campaign. More than 400 Iowans completed the course.

Pre and post surveys indicate that Iowan’s not only increased their knowledge about investing, but also took action. There was a 27% increase in the number of participants who had made a “ball park estimate” of their retirement savings needs and a 36 % increase in the number who developed an investment philosophy and assessed their risk tolerance.

Lessons Learned

• Library Consultant Alysia Peich said, “Library staff in rural communities can improve basic marketing skills with training and coaching that focuses on a word of mouth campaign.”

• The face-to-face training coupled with the online courses is a popular and convenient way to reach a boarder audience and still maintain personal contact with patrons.

• Library staff training coupled with the investment collections is helping each participating library sustain their project that empowers people to make financial decisions and solve problems.

Grants awarded in 2009; 2011


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