Chapter 5: Building a Better Public Library Budget

A people counting system can also help you refine your library budgeting techniques and build a better budget. This chapter covers how to develop your budget and how people counters in your library can help you stop budget cuts, provide proof of compliance and secure improvements to your facility.

How to Develop Your Budget

Libraries use budgets to offer patrons as much as possible regarding services, programs and resources. When you carefully develop your budget, you can ensure you use your library’s funds effectively and achieve your objectives. Follow the steps below to build your budget:

  1. Determine what your library wants to accomplish this year.
  2. Identify the total amount of financial resources needed to achieve your goals.
  3. Draft budget documents.
  4. Get input on your budget from the board of trustees.
  5. Approve the finished budget.
  6. Secure funding if necessary.

Examples of budgeting methods your library can use include:

  • Line item budgeting: This budgeting method is one of the most common and divides your expenses by line into categories, such as salaries, books, supplies and equipment.
  • Program budgeting: The program budgeting method focuses on your library’s activities and earmarks funds for specific services and programs.
  • Formula budgeting: This method uses predetermined standards and financial norms to allocate your funds, such as inputs regarding the ratio of total funds to book stock or the number of academic programs.
  • Lump sum budgeting: When your library receives a lump sum of money, you can divide this sum into categories.
  • Performance budgeting: Though similar to program budgeting, this budgeting method shifts the emphasis to performance rather than programs. Your fund allocation is determined by the performance of activities and operational efficiency.

Stop Budget Cuts

Budget cuts have affected many libraries in recent years. Public institutions and doctoral universities, in particular, have often been the most impacted by budget cuts. During periods of economic downturn, societal changes like the growth of the internet and limited capacity protocols like those associated with the pandemic, libraries often face budget cuts. Budget cuts can force you to reallocate your funds and reduce funds to specific expenditures, such as library programs or activities.

Fortunately, people counter systems can help to prevent budget cuts by showing program success and facility use. With people counters, you can:

  • Track program attendance.
  • Support your funding requests.
  • Determine security needs.
  • Make informed decisions.

Armed with accurate insights and data from your people counters, you may be able to prevent cuts to your library budget. Your data identifies usage patterns and periods of peak demand or low volumes of visitors. You can use hard numbers to support your library’s need for funding.

Provide Proof of Library Compliance

People counter systems can help your library with reporting your statistics to the state. You need to operate within budget restrictions by limiting technology use or maintaining labor percentages. You can use the data from your people counting system to provide proof of compliance with the state’s standards. Taxpayers want to know how their tax dollars are being used, and with this data, you can show your community that you are putting your funds to good use.

Standards can vary from state to state, but they are often used to determine the worth and eligibility of your library for funding. If you run a public library, failure to meet standards and remain compliant could lead to the risk of losing funding.

Secure Improvements

You can use data collected through people counting to prove your library deserves upgrades and request additional resources and labor.

  • Facility upgrades: If an area or room in your library is in high demand, you may be able to make a case for facility upgrades to ensure patrons can access these spaces when they need them.
  • Additional resources: Your library may be able to use your people counter data to show that your large number of patrons are using in-library digital resources, such as eBooks and computers. With this data, you can make your case for more technology.
  • Additional labor: You may be able to gain back operating hours or staff members by showing how many visitors use your library daily. If many patrons use your facility, you can show you need more staff members or longer hours to serve your visitors adequately.

Purchase a People Counter System From Traf-Sys

An essential component of operating a library is the collection of visitor data. With this data, you can better measure marketing effectiveness, schedule staff hours and defend important funding requests. Though collecting this data is important, doing so can be challenging.

Manually counting patrons with tick sheets can be time-consuming, distract staff from more crucial tasks like helping patrons and lead to inaccurate data. If your library relies on manual visitor tracking, tally-keeping may be the first thing that slips through the cracks when your staff becomes too busy.

This is why libraries need people counter systems. If you manage a library or you’re in charge of your library’s marketing, you may want to invest in a people counter for your library. With our service at Traf-Sys, you can get the information and analysis needed regarding your people counter that you may not have otherwise. Our software helps you analyze the data in the context of your operations.

Compared to our competitors, we offer a higher level of customer service. We can assist you with implementation, provide guidance on interpreting your data and automatically flag any issues with the system. Additionally, we work with more libraries than any other people counting provider.

Benefits of choosing Traf-Sys for libraries include:

  • Support for funding requests: With an accurate library patron count, you can gather evidence supporting your capital expenditures, expansion projects, grant applications and funding requests. Utilize the insights from your patron counter to strengthen your funding and grant applications.
  • Management of circulation rate: You can track library visitors accurately and automatically with a people counting system. After implementing a system, you will automatically receive daily, reliable traffic counts and eliminate the task of using tick sheets. You can also better understand your traffic and identify usage patterns. For example, you can understand how many people checked out books in relation to how many total people visited.
  • Facility management: Implement a people counting system to utilize the data regarding supplies and facility staffing levels that can help you better manage your facility.
  • Display improvement: Create displays in the busiest areas of your library, and figure out where displays for books and other media may be better placed. Data from people counters can help you determine how to improve access and enhance your signs to make them more useful for your patrons.
  • Promotional and marketing activities: With a detailed traffic counter, you can determine what marketing plans work, what don’t and how to make your special promotions and events translate to traffic.

Regardless of your library’s size and budget, we have affordable solutions to provide you with the people counting capabilities you need. Our service team can help you implement a people counting system that meets your library’s specific needs. Request a free quote for our traffic counter, or contact a Traf-Sys representative to learn more about how our solutions can make a difference in how your library operates.