Over the past year Innovative Changes has worked with Multnomah County Library to deliver financial education programs to diverse communities across the Portland Metro Area. In particular, we co-taught, collaborated and got to know Joanne Kahn, the library’s Financial Literacy Coordinator. IC$ growing partnership with Multnomah County Library’s Financial Literacy initiatives has helped IC$ to expand our reach in the community as well as to further develop our repertoire of financial curricula. Keep reading to learn more!
What is your role at the Multnomah County Library?
I joined the library in 2010 as Financial Literacy Program Coordinator. The Library Foundation had recently secured a grant from Smart Investing @ your library, a national partnership between the American Library Association and the FINRA Investor Education Foundation. Smart Investing grants are awarded to select libraries across the country to increase financial literacy in our communities. My job is to achieve our grant goals, which include developing programs for low-income families and at-risk seniors, creating a Personal Finance section of our web site, training library staff, and piloting the use of mobile computing as a way to deliver workshops.
I first became interested in financial literacy when teaching my own daughters how to manage a checking account and use debit and credit cards. Knowing that many children needed those skills, I began volunteering through Banking on our Future in K-12 schools, and that experience led to my work with the library.
What type of activities have you organized since being at the library? What has been successful? What has been challenging?
Previously, there was no information on personal finance on the library’s web site, so the new Smart Saving site (www.multcolib.org/smartsaving) is an enormous step forward. By partnering with several local organizations, including Innovative Changes, we have also provided dozens of public programs and covered a wide range of financial topics, on money management, credit, foreclosure, social security, and retirement finances. Upcoming events are posted on the Smart Saving site. A large portion of my work is outreach. Because the library had existing outreach channels through retirement communities and Head Start centers where we deliver library services, we used those relationships to begin delivering financial literacy programs. The Head Start programs we have done with Innovative Changes, especially on Teaching Children about Money, have been very successful. The most challenging activity for me has been the tablet-computer-based class for seniors, about post-retirement finances, which broke new ground on how the library does outreach.
How does Innovative Changes fit in with your/the library’s work?
Innovative Changes has become our primary partner for budgeting programs, both at branches and in Head Start centers, because of your experience providing nuts-and-bolts tools for families with limited resources. It is especially rewarding to know that after the program people can follow up with Innovative Changes to get individual help.
Do you have any anecdotes/success stories from our mutual activities through out the community?
Many program attendees have commented that they were more motivated to get their finances under control, which is what it’s all about – to create a budget, get and read their free credit report, and manage their debt. At one of our budgeting classes, Carmina had explained that the first step, when starting to budget, is to track spending and find out where your money is going. We distributed little notebooks people could use to jot down their spending, and when I handed one woman her notebook her eyes grew wide and she looked at me in a sort of shock and said “Everything??” I could see her suddenly realize how much money she was spending without thinking about it.