Free Money!

matthew lesco business

Everything You Need to Run a Business at Home

If you were paying attention in the early 1990s, you might remember this guy, Matthew Lesko. He was on a bunch of infomercials hawking free money from the government. Most of his publications are centered on information on government grants. There was criticism about his free money information by some consumer groups that said that he misled consumers on eligibility requirements for many of the grant programs.  He reminds me of Kevin Trudeau and his books on cures “they” don’t want you to know about. Both books made me a bit crazy as a librarian. Too many folks were convinced that these guys had all the answers.

I know many of us were struggling about including these books in the collection back in the day. My first instinct was to say what the people want, should be the driving force in collection development. If I knew the patron well enough, I felt obligated to say that I didn’t feel it was a good choice, and then try and convince them to try alternatives. These get rich quick or natural cures make me cringe. The hype on this book (and others) puts librarians between a rock and a hard place. No one wants to hand out questionable information and at the same time, we want patrons to ask for what they want. To me, this is collection development hell.

I will be in the stacks with a copy of James Fry’s A Million little Pieces and Madonna’s Sex book.


Lesko back cover

negative research



  1. Yep, my library had a copy of “Free Money to Change Your Life” by Lesko till last year. It finally got gross enough to get rid of and sadly I couldn’t get a replacement copy (darn).

  2. You haven’t lived until you’ve heard a financial planner arguing with a library’s staff to remove books by a certain author, vividly pointing out that the author in question had just been imprisoned for 20 years for tax evasion for exploiting the PRECISE same tactics for “reducing your tax liability” as described in several of his books………..

    There comes a point when “but it’s popular and circulates!” amounts to being a criminal accomplice……

      1. Nope, someone from deep within one of those anti-government conspiracy theorists, somewhere amongst the “the Federal Reserve is illegal and we need to go back to gold” guys. He preached “tax evasion” in language that made it sound legal. Tell it to the judges……

        1. The IRS has (sadly quite hidden) pages exposing and exploding those officially stupid claims. I wish they had them in poster form for tax season use.

    1. Making books available to the public is not a criminal act, even if the books are written by criminals. It is the responsibility of librarians to make information freely available, and censoring on the basis of the author’s legal difficulties would be unethical. The library would need to make this book available while it is in demand, and the best response would be also to include good, reputable financial information alongside it. Telling patrons which to read amounts to acting as a financial advisor, not a librarian, and could you you or the library into legal difficulties.

      1. That the author is or was a criminal is not a grounds for rejection, I agree. That the work itself uses persuasive methods to encourage its patrons to do things conclusively and authoritatively determined to be criminal *is* grounds to eject it from a collection, I claim. Liability could be from too-restrictive (what you point out) and from too-loose (what I fear); a good manager or board will get expert counsel to determine if either of us is ‘right’ about legal risk from an item.

  3. I know about Kevin Trudeau mainly from his infomercial of “Natural Cures ‘They’ Don’t Want You To Know About”. Interesting how he claimed doctors were keeping all these miraculous cures a secret from the public to make money, but you had to BUY his book to find out what they were. 😛

  4. The patrons that broke my heart where the ones who asked about a poetry anthology with an enormous price that the patrons couldn’t afford, but one of their poems was in it. How could you tell a patron that the only criterion for having their poem selected was if the check for their entry fee cleared?

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