Chapter 1: Using People Counters in Libraries

Before you decide whether to use a people counter in your library, you should understand the purpose of these systems and the different types of solutions. If you determine that your library needs a people counting system, you can identify the best people counter for libraries, particularly for your facility.

The Purpose of People Counters

People counters serve several purposes in a library environment, including making more informed decisions, making cases to administration and staying in compliance with regulations and standards. At Traf-Sys, our software is 95% to 99% accurate, so you can use the data confidently. To understand how you can use people counters, you first need to know how these systems work.

At Traf-Sys, our people counters function differently to give you accurate counts depending on the building layout. A horizontal entrance counter, for example, works by counting how many interruptions occur with an infrared sensor. Infrared sensors collect data in a narrow doorway that only a single individual can walk through at a time. On the other hand, overhead counters can provide accurate numbers for open areas and wider doorways. An overhead system counts patrons with video and thermal sensors.

  • Video sensors: A video sensor counts people with video footage. This type of sensor may offer better accuracy.
  • Thermal sensors: A thermal sensor detects the presence of a person by detecting body heat. With a thermal sensor, you can prioritize patron privacy.

Both types of sensors have unique advantages, so regardless of which system you select for your library, our solutions can help you assess the collected data. You can use this software to generate reports, gain insights and access real-time data regarding your library from any mobile device or computer with internet access.

Which People Counting System Should You Use?

A few different people counting systems are available, and the right one for your library depends on your needs and preferences. At Traf-Sys, the different types of people counting systems we offer include:

  • Overhead people beam counters: As the name suggests, an overhead people counting sensor is mounted to the ceiling before the entrance. Overhead counters are reliable because they can distinguish between moving objects, such as a child versus a cart. Examples of available models include the Spectrum series and the Eclipse Sensor.
  • Horizontal people beam counters: A horizontal beam-type sensor is mounted on each side of a doorway. This type of counter projects a laser beam across an entryway. When a person passes through the beam, the sensor registers that they have entered or exited the doorway. When two people walk through the beam at the same time, the system may only count one person. While these counters tend to be less accurate than an overhead sensor, they are sufficient for many organizations and can be more affordable.
  • Wired people counters: A wired network connection is needed for an overhead people counter.
  • Wireless people counters: A wireless counter is battery-powered and can be used with a horizontal counter.
  • Bi-directional people counters: A bi-directional people counter distinguishes between someone walking in or out.
  • Uni-directional people counters: A uni-directional counter does not distinguish between someone walking in or out. With this type of counter, the total traffic each hour is divided by two to calculate the number of visitors.

The type of people counting system that is right for your library will depend on the setup of your entrance and the size of your facility.

  • Setup of each entrance: You will need to consider which people counter is the best option for each entry or area. For example, your main entrance may only require a horizontal door counter, while the computer lab or children’s area may be better suited to an overhead thermal sensor.
  • Size of your library: If you have multiple entrances and areas for which you want to track foot traffic, you may want to install several people counters. For example, you can install a people counter at the entrance, the children’s reading section and the audiobook area. These counters will help you pinpoint when the highest number of patrons visit these parts of the library and how you can optimize your staff scheduling accordingly.

Does Your Library Need a People Counting System?

Consider your library’s needs to determine whether a people counting system is right for your facility. The following criteria can help you decide if your library needs a people counting system:

  • Whether you need to optimize staffing: When you understand your typical foot traffic density, you can optimize your staffing. Plan schedules more efficiently and ensure you have enough staff members to cover duties during the busiest hours and seasons. If your average visitor count seems to be growing, you can determine when to hire a new staff member. For this purpose, a people counting system that offers hourly or real-time data is the best solution.
  • What level of accuracy your library requires: If you want a high level of accuracy and precision from your people counters, you may want to opt for overhead counters, especially if you have wide entrances or want to distinguish between objects and people or even adults and children.
  • What marketing metrics you want to assess: People counters can help you analyze specific marketing metrics and conversion rates. For example, you may want to evaluate whether a specific promotion has the desired effect.
  • Whether you need to optimize space utilization: You may also want to know how many visitors your library gets to certain areas or rooms and which areas are not drawing in as many patrons. You may also want to compare traffic through entrances. With this data, you can better utilize your space and determine whether you need more room for specific areas. For example, you might find you need more meeting rooms or a larger children’s area.
  • Whether you need your data in real-time, hourly or daily: In some cases, you may only want a daily count of visitors to your library. If you aren’t concerned with off-times or daily peaks, you can choose straightforward hardware. However, an overhead counter or more accurate directional counter may be essential if you want hourly totals. If you want to monitor current occupancy, you need a solution with real-time tracking.
  • Whether your facility can accommodate wireless or wired solutions: If you do not want to worry about battery replacement, opt for a wired people counter. For a wired system, you need a 110V power outlet. A wireless solution tends to be more affordable upfront but requires regular battery changes.