Financial Literacy and Libraries in the News

Story on Rutgers Cooperative Extension work with New Jersey and New York library systems to train librarians to guide library patrons to the information they need for sound financial decisions. Funded by IMLS and FINRA Investor Education Foundation.  They cite our study.

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Public Libraries as Financial Literacy Supports Final Report

The final report for the Public Libraries as Financial Literacy Supporters project is now available for free.

Catherine Arnott Smith, Kristin R. Eschenfelder (2010) Public Libraries as Financial Literacy Supporters.  White paper of the University of Wisconsin Center for Financial Security.

This report describes several linked empirical studies that examine the activities of public libraries in increasing the financial literacy of their service population.

  • A qualitative study of librarians’ perceptions of the challenges in offering financial literacy-based information and services,
  • a qualitative study of the perceptions of six partners – or outside organizations or individuals – that work with libraries to offer programs and services.
  • A survey of the financial literacy programs and services offered by sample of public libraries and the priority audiences and topics of those programs and services.
  • An analysis of the financial literacy related hyperlinks contained on a sample of public library websites.

The study results include the following:

  • Few public libraries link to large federal agency financial literacy information sources like or the
  • The most popular financial literacy link was to the IRS.  Most financial literacy links went to jobs sites.
  • Computer literacy issues, combined with the increased computerization of job application processes and benefits programs make providing financial literacy reference and assistance to patrons even more challenging.
  • Public librarians rate “lack of patron computer skills” as their top financial literacy training issue, followed by job hunting, basics of personal finance and unemployment related issues.
  • Few public librarians receive financial literacy training and many suffer from the same financial literacy deficits applicable to the general population.
  • Partner organizations value public libraries’ aura of credibility, their safe controlled atmosphere, as well as their free Internet access and publicity.
  • Of libraries offering financial literacy programming, most offered classes or workshops, addition of financial literacy information to collections and invited talks by outside experts.

Research Brief (5 pages)

Full study report (105 pages)


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FINRA State by State Financial Capabilities Survey

December 8, 2010: FINRA News release (see

FINRA Foundation Releases Nation’s First State-by-State Financial Capability Survey. he FINRA Investor Education Foundation (FINRA Foundation) today launched a dynamic interactive Web resource to display the results of America’s first State-by-State Financial Capability Survey (, which was also released today. The new website,, displays a clickable map of the United States and allows the public, policymakers and researchers to delve into and compare the financial capabilities of Americans in every state and across geographic regions. The State-by-State Financial Capability Survey, which surveyed more than 28,000 respondents, was developed in consultation with the U.S. Department of the Treasury and the President’s Advisory Council on Financial Literacy.

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Recent library financial literacy webinars

There have been two recent webinars on financial literacy – both should be available for later viewing:

Jan  2011: Public Library Association “Right on the Money: Financial Literacy @ your library”  Slides and video recording (  General information (

February 2011: American Library Association/Chicago Federal Reserve “Planning for Moneysmart Week @ yourlibrary (

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American Libraries Magazine covers financial literacy programs

American Libraries Magazine

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Press Release


Professors Catherine Arnott Smith and Kristin R. Eschenfelder, of the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Library and Information Studies, have been awarded a grant for their proposal “Public Libraries as Financial Literacy Providers” by the University of Wisconsin-Madison Center for Financial Security (CFS) as part of the 2010-2011 UW-Madison CFS Financial Literacy Research Consortium Cooperative Agreement with the Social Security Administration.

Arnott Smith and Eschenfelder will explore how local public libraries in Wisconsin can serve the public’s financial literacy needs during this economic downturn.  The results of this study will inform the education of future librarians and the development of library professional continuing education/training materials with the hope of increasing the capacity of libraries to serve the financial literacy needs of their patrons, with specific emphasis on service to patrons from diverse communities, low-income communities, and  jobless and/or transient populations.

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Welcome to the Public Libraries and Financial Literacy Project Blog!

This is the blog for the research project “Public Libraries as Financial Literacy Service Providers”

The project is led by Assistant Professor Catherine Arnott Smith and Associate Professor Kristin R. Eschenfelder and graduate students at the School of Library and Information Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

The project is one of many projects run through the University of Wisconsin-Madison Center for Financial Security (CFS) as part of the 2010-2011 UW-Madison CFS Financial Literacy Research Consortium Cooperative Agreement with the Social Security Administration.

The project is developing a public bibliography on Mendeley: (

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