Library Web Page Offers Economic Advice

Online resource is example of how libraries provide more than just books.

by / June 10, 2008

In response to today's tough economic times, the Sacramento, Calif., Public Library is providing a new Web resource for citizens: MoneySmart@your library. The new page at the library's Web site brings together practical information on saving money, finding work, dealing with mortgage issues and more. The page presents a wide variety of information that's been assembled by librarians from numerous sources.

The tips on economic survival come at a good time for many citizens. "The Sacramento region has been particularly hard hit by some of the economic realities that the country is facing right now," said Gary Shaffer, marketing director for the library. "It's the library adapting to our customers' needs. We felt there was a general need for something like this for our community."

MoneySmart @ your library lists library programs on job interviews, resumés, credit, identity theft and other topics. The page also gives links to articles on saving money. It directs people to Web sites that can help them deal with real estate issues such as foreclosure. There's a link to WE Connect, the first lady of California Maria Shriver's site, which provides information to help individuals and families stretch their dollars.

MoneySmart also lists several books that help readers save money and spend more wisely. The books, of course, can be checked out at the library. Citizens may subscribe to MoneySmart, so they're notified via e-mail whenever the page is updated with new information.

A Wealth of Resources
The new page is one of many online services provided by the Sacramento Public Library, which is the fifth-largest library system in California, with 27 city and county branches. Other online features include chatting with a librarian; downloading books, music and videos; receiving help with homework; and signing up for e-newsletters featuring books in various categories.

MoneySmart allows users to find information on numerous helpful topics very quickly. "This is what technology allows us to do," Shaffer said. "So when people think of libraries as just a warehouse for books, I think they need to consider that libraries are keeping up on not only the latest technology, but also the latest information, and really working at ways to adapt and meet the needs of our constituents."

The library was planning to do a program around the subject of economic help for citizens, and the idea to create the new Web page sprang from that. The intent is to save people time by collecting the information for them.

"This is actually assembled by librarians with masters' degrees in library science, so they've pulled the best articles," said Shaffer. "A lot of the resources we use aren't going to show up in the top 10 of Google. But we feel they're really excellent resources, so we pull those all together."

Instant Access
MoneySmart has a link to the Web site for the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) Housing Corp. ACORN is a national, nonprofit organization that, among other services, offers free assistance to homeowners facing foreclosure. ACORN works with 43 major lenders to renegotiate loans and bring them current, via the Home Equity Loss Prevention (HELP) program.

"For the digital age, this is a great way to bring together everything into one place," Shaffer said. "And what's great is, it's not a listing of a book that I have to then go to the library and get, but rather this is a way that I can, in many cases, get the information instantaneously."

Shaffer said the library plans to eventually have 50 pages similar to MoneySmart, with each devoted to a different topic. All such pages would bring together a variety of information from numerous sources. Many would relate to current events, the way MoneySmart is particularly timely in today's economy.

Whether it's with an article on saving money at the grocery store, or a seminar on strengthening a resumé, MoneySmart @ your library can help people improve their economic lives. It's an aid that's certainly welcome in today's economic climate.