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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