Library offering free financial help

Published 11:29 am Monday, September 26, 2011

By NEAL WAGNER / City Editor

The Pelham Public Library has taken advantage of receiving one of only 20 grants in the nation by offering several financial planning services for residents of all ages, said library Director Barbara Roberts.

In August, the library received a Smart Investing@Your Library grant awarded by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority Investor Education Foundation and the American Library Association. Pelham was one of only 20 libraries in the country, and one of only two in Alabama, to receive the grant.

To receive the grant, library officials submitted a 40-page application, details of its budgets and expenditures and several other pieces of information, Roberts said.

“It was a very lengthy process that went on for several months,” Roberts said with a laugh. “Each month, they would narrow the list down a little bit more, and we just kept on going until we got the grant.”

With the grant, which Roberts said was worth more than $88,000, the library was able to add several features to its website and offer a plethora of financial planning classes.

On the new website, which can be accessed by visiting and clicking on the “Smart Investing@Your Library” button on the top left corner of the page, users can use calculators to help plan for retirement, check their credit score, learn about saving for a child’s college education and more.

The site also features a stock market summary and the latest financial news from CNBC.

With the grant money, the library will also begin holding story times called “M for Money,” which will feature stories and songs about financial responsibility. Library employees will also hold a program called “Banking on Books” at Valley Elementary School, which will encourage students to read books about financial responsibility.

“It’s excellent for the kids to take a hands-on approach to saving money early in their lives,” Roberts said.

The library will also hold programs at Valley Intermediate School and Pelham High School, titled “Rhymes and Dimes,” and “Reality Check,” respectively. Through the VIS program, actors will present kids poems about money, and teach the kids to write their own poems.

The Reality Check program will focus on teaching teens about becoming financially independent, Roberts said.

Library employees will also hold programs for adults and senior citizens ranging from saving money with healthy eating to identifying and preventing identity theft.

“This will be really beneficial for the whole community. It’s very timely with everything that’s happening in the economy right now,” Roberts said.

The Hispanic Interest Coalition of Alabama and the Toyota Family Literacy Program will also help the library offer financial classes for Spanish-speaking residents.

“People need to have their finances in order, especially during these economic times,” Roberts said. “These programs will offer services to help an extremely large audience.”