David Brooks of the New York Times writes about an article by Barbara Dafoe Whitehead, about the report released in May by the Commission on Thrift, For a New Thrift: Confronting the Debt Culture, that may be the first indicator that the tide will be changing. Essentially the group looked at how social norms and institutions that encourage frugality have been undermined and those that encouraged debt and living for the moment were strengthened. resulting in the present situation we have now.
"... it’s one of the most important think-tank reports you’ll read this year… [he report] also has some recommendations. First, raise public consciousness about debt the way the anti-smoking activists did with their campaign. Second, create institutions that encourage thrift. Foundations and churches could issue short-term loans to cut into the payday lenders’ business. Public and private programs could give the poor and middle class access to financial planners. Usury laws could be enforced and strengthened. Colleges could reduce credit card advertising on campus. KidSave accounts would encourage savings from a young age. The tax code should tax consumption, not income, and in the meantime, it should do more to encourage savings up and down the income ladder.
There are dozens of things that could be done. But the most important is to shift values. Franklin made it prestigious to embrace certain bourgeois virtues. Now it’s socially acceptable to undermine those virtues. It’s considered normal to play the debt game and imagine that decisions made today will have no consequences for the future."
So what does this mean for libraries? Not only are we models for thrift, but we can position ourselves to be the great educators on financial literacy and do what we do best: we can offer programs on financial planning; we can create “financial savvy centers” both in our libraries and online that provide online resources, books, workshops, webcasts; we can start a series of author talks on the subject; build community around the solutions... The need for these services are inevitable, the question is, will libraries assert themselves to be the place to go for those solutions or will we sit back and allow other institutions to move ahead and take our place?
Timing is everything.
Every marketer knows the power in being first…. Here’s an opportunity for libraries to step up and take advantage of that positioning.