With $100,000 Grant, Library to Launch Financial Literacy Program

The Kansas City Public Library has received a $100,000 grant to help launch a new, two-year program aimed at improving financial literacy.

The Library will partner with the Women’s Employment Network and other local agencies to provide a range of services—workshops, web resources, and individual financial coaching—to residents who are looking to enhance their money-managing skills but may lack access to reliable, unbiased education opportunities and resources. The program will be open to anyone but specifically target:

  • Young women entering the workforce and women newly assuming primary responsibility for managing household finances.

  • Immigrants, primarily Somalis and Latinos living near the Library’s North-East Branch.

  • Adults 55 and older who are preparing for retirement or managing income in retirement.

The services—expected to be available by summer—are projected to reach hundreds of residents in areas of need served by the Library’s L.H. Bluford Branch, and Southeast Branch, in addition to North-East.

“Our goal,” says project principal Eric Petersen of the Library’s H&R Block Business and Career Center, “is to provide basic information and services to help people begin to improve their financial outlook.”

The program is made possible by a grant from the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority’s Investor Education Foundation through the Smart investing@your library initiative, a partnership with the American Library Association. The Kansas City Public Library is one of 21 grant recipients nationwide in 2014.

The Library will make financial literacy resources available on its website and in its print collection. Workshops, held at the three branches and at area community centers, social services agencies, and religious facilities, will cover banking, budgeting, credit management, and protection against identity theft. The Women’s Employment Network and other Financial Opportunity Centers will offer individual sessions with a financial coach.

Petersen and Mary Olive Thompson, who is assisting in coordinating the program as the Library’s director of outreach and community engagement, expect more than 450 people to take advantage of the workshops and 150 or more to engage in the one-on-one coaching sessions.

Petersen sees the two-year program as a natural extension of the Block Center’s personal finance offerings. The Center, housed in the downtown Central Library, 14 W. 10th St., also targets career development, entrepreneurship, and nonprofit development.

“With workshops in the three branches, this helps maintain the Block Center’s identity as a system-wide service,” says Petersen, who co-wrote the grant with the Central Library’s youth services manager, Jamie Mayo.

Partnering on the financial literacy program with the Library and the Women’s Employment Network are the Kansas City chapter of Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC); Guadalupe Centers, Inc.; the Somali Center of Kansas City; and Arts Tech.

The Washington, D.C.-based Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) is the largest non-governmental regulator of securities firms doing business in the U.S. Now in its eighth year, the Smart investing@your library program has awarded a total of $10 million to public libraries, community college libraries, and library networks across the country.