Public Libraries to Take Center Stage in Financial Literacy

CFPB announces new Community Education Pilot Project

April 7, 2014

The US Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has announced a new partnership with public libraries to help them become a trusted source for unbiased financial education information and resources in their communities. “Libraries already play an important role in communities across the United States,” CFPB Director Richard Cordray said at an April 7 press conference at the Federal Reserve Bank in Chicago, but “they need help in identifying reliable community partners who can help them establish, host, and present programs.”

The announcement of the CFPB Community Education Pilot Project was made during Money Smart Week, April 5–12, a partnership initiative between the American Library Association and the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.

Following Cordray’s announcement, a panel discussion took place (shown in the photo) featuring Public Library Association (PLA) President Carolyn Anthony, Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) Director Susan Hildreth, Brooklyn (N.Y.) Public Library Director of Adult Learning Kerwin Pilgrim, and CFPB Senior Content Specialist Dan Rutherford.

Rutherford said the bureau plans a five-pronged strategy for its project:

  1. Provide librarians with a reliable set of financial resources and programming suggestions
  2. Help libraries identify and connect with local partnering organizations
  3. Build an online community for financial education librarians
  4. Provide marketing support for library programs
  5. Offer online and in-person training for librarians

CFPB has been working in recent months with nine public library partners that are experimenting with financial programs tailored to the needs of their patrons. The bureau will add information gleaned from library staff and patrons to the resources it is making available. The initial partners are the Brooklyn (N.Y.) Public Library, Columbus (Ohio) Metropolitan Library, San Francisco Public Library, Fresno County (Calif.) Public Library, Florence County (S.C.) Library System, Orange County (Fla.) Library System, Georgetown County (S.C.) Library, Pelham (Ala.) Public Library, and the Menominee Indian tribal library in Wisconsin.

CFPB is not a funding bureau, so it plans to concentrate on providing free resources to guide library staff in creating programs. The FINRA Investor Education Foundation, a private corporation, offers competitive Smart Investing @ your library grants in collaboration with the ALA Reference and User Services Association. The Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), through the state library agencies, is another possible source of funds.

However, PLA President Anthony, director of the Skokie (Ill.) Public Library, said that financial literacy programming is “not a big budget item,” and that libraries should explore working with local partners—local government agencies, financial consultants, cooperative extension services, universities, and banks—for guidance.

The project also encourages the participation of school, community college, and university libraries interested in financial literacy education.

Libraries interested in providing financial programs should start by emailing (subject line: Community Education) to obtain free materials and online resources. CFPB has also created a Financial Education Discussion Group on LinkedIn.

Watch the archived event here.


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