WASHINGTON — A financial education partnership between public libraries and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has skyrocketed to more than 98 library systems in the two months since the pilot program launched.

CFPB Director Richard Cordray noted the program's growth in a speech Monday to announce that Rhode Island's library system also joined. The program, which is meant to help libraries offer more broad and uniform financial education to consumers with the help of federal agencies including the CFPB, started in April with 9 public library systems. With the recent addition of Rhode Island's libraries, the program has now reached about 98 systems and 470 branches across the country.

"We want consumers to feel comfortable walking into a library and asking where they can find basic information about budgeting, savings, investments, and credit," said Cordray in prepared remarks at a press conference in Rhode Island with Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., to announce the partnership. "And we want librarians to feel comfortable pointing them in the right direction, as they already do for so many Americans on so many topics every day."

Cordray cited a study indicating that 25% of people logging onto a library computer are either doing it for commercial needs or to manage finances. However, the agency and librarians pointed out during a hearing to announce the pilot's launch that staff often are not prepared to answer financial questions or give sound advice to consumers.

"We already know that people are going to their libraries for help with managing their financial lives. But librarians are not trained for financial literacy, and they may not feel comfortable dealing with these issues," said Cordray in his latest remarks. "Our partnership will put them in a position to provide people with unbiased, easy-to-understand help."

Other federal agencies in the program include the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, the Federal Trade Commission and the FINRA Investor Education Foundation.

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