Smart Investing: Partnering to Promote Financial Literacy - The Orange County Library System Experience

Smart Investing: Partnering to Promote Financial Literacy - The Orange County Library System Experience

Paolo Melillo (Orange County Library System, USA), J. Clay Singleton (Rollins College, USA), Robert K. Prescott (Rollins College, USA) and Susan Bach (Rollins College, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61350-387-4.ch008
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This chapter describes the Orange County Library System’s financial literacy workshops and highlights the partnerships that made them a success. While the library system received a grant that helped get the project started, its partners brought expertise and a connection with the target audience that the library alone could not have provided. This project illustrates how community partnerships are a mutually beneficial way for public libraries to establish themselves as a resource for unbiased and reliable information. In addition to the describing the partnerships, this chapter will also focus on the ingredients believed to be the keys to success. The authors hope the experience can serve as a motivator and template for public libraries everywhere wanting to further establish themselves as information resources with community partnership assistance.
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In 2008, with the help of a grant opportunity, the Orange County Library System (OCLS) in Florida partnered with a local business school and began offering a successful series of financial literacy workshops in Spanish. Survey results show that the series helped reinforce the perception of the Library as a community resource for unbiased and reliable financial literacy information and programs. The series exceeded everyone’s expectations and more workshops were developed and offered in English to target the area’s African American community. Plans are currently underway to repeat the process and offer similar series for other target markets in the near future.

Five key factors were instrumental to the project’s success. We:

  • identified a target market,

  • researched the needs of the target market before planning the workshops,

  • obtained a funding source,

  • developed a marketing plan,

  • used surveys to obtain feedback and adapt future programs to what was learned.

Last but not least, we were able to establish effective partnerships with community agencies to help us in planning, promoting, and even facilitating the workshops. Most of the partnerships were for outreach and promotional assistance.

Our main partner, however, was the Rollins College Crummer Graduate School of Business, a well known and nationally ranked business school in the area. This partnership was the crux of the project which allowed us to profit from the partner’s credibility in the community. The School’s faculty also provided finance expertise and MBA students served as program instructors.

This chapter will focus on the above cited ingredients for success and the partnerships which made the financial literacy workshops an achievement we are proud to promote. We hope our experience can serve as a motivator and template for public libraries everywhere wanting to further establish themselves as recognized places for unbiased and reliable information via informational programs developed and offered with community partnerships.



The Orange County Library System serves nearly one million residents in the Orlando area of Central Florida. This area is known as having a one of the fastest growing Hispanic populations in the United States (Fishkind & Associates, 2007). According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, the population of Hispanics in Orange County was 25.6 percent in 2009. This survey also reported that close to 33.7 percent of this community claimed to speak English less than “well” (U.S. Census Bureau, 2009).

Staff working directly with the community noted an interest in financial literacy from Spanish-speaking users but a lack of appropriate information. Several staff stated that the Spanish-speaking patrons they worked with knew that budgeting, saving and investing were important to their lives but they were unsure where to turn and whom to trust. Many of the books and media materials on the topic were in English and many in the community believed the topic was intimidating.

In 2007, the Library received an invitation to apply for a Smart Investing @ your library® grant. Smart Investing @ your library is co-sponsored by the American Library Association (ALA) and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) Investor Education Foundation. The program addresses the “growing need for unbiased financial and investor education at the grassroots level” (American Library Association [ALA]). This opportunity could not have come at a better time. Based on staff observations, we knew there was an interest and need in the growing Hispanic community for a program on financial literacy.

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