Why All Libraries Need People Counting Systems

With the emergence of eBooks and eReaders, it’s important for libraries to ditch the Dark Ages and embrace the digital age. What started as just a building full of books is now a community resource center with computer labs. People counting systems have dual purpose in the digital takeover – they not only provide libraries with a technologically advanced way to keep records, but also provide them with hard facts to use in requests for additional technology.

According to a 2012 study by the American Library Association (ALA), Americans spend nearly three times as much on candy as they do on public libraries. They spend $35.81 a year for the public library—about the average cost of one hardcover book. And college libraries receive just less than three cents of every dollar spent on higher education, while school libraries spend an average of $12.06 per student on library media. In short, libraries don’t generate much revenue.

And although libraries typically have tight budgets, they must remain a reliable community resource. According to ALA , nearly 89 percent of public library outlets offer wireless Internet access. Also, research shows the highest achieving students attend schools with well-staffed and well-funded libraries. In a 2012 poll, 94 percent of respondents agreed that public libraries play an important role in giving everyone a chance to succeed because they provide free access to materials and resources.

In this study and others, there are plenty of statistics about the number of books checked out and the amount spent, but there are hardly any about the amount of people who use these facilities. With limited funding and an unknown amount of patrons, library workers are bound to have a tough time allocating their time and money. It’s difficult to figure the amount of services needed if they don’t know how many people need them.

People counting systems allow libraries to combat increasing financial pressures by providing them with information that can act as a foundation for their labor, budget, and service requests. Door counters can produce data reports of the amount of patrons who enter the library on a daily, weekly, monthly or yearly basis. With adequate staffing, funding and resource, a library can better support its community and bridge the digital divide.

In school and public libraries, a people counting system can streamline the following functions:

  1.  Keep in compliance – Library workers can report yearly statistics to the state as needed. They can stay within budget restrictions by maintaining labor percentages or limiting technology usage.
  2. Make cases to administration – With people counting data, libraries can share impressive numbers with elected officials or board members to prove their need for increased or decreased hours of operation and additional staffing, technology or services. They can prove that usage has increased, even if circulation is down. By installing a door counter above the computer lab, libraries can use traffic numbers to gauge their building’s technology usage. They can increase or decrease the amount of technology available based on accurate data.
  3. Make informed business decisions – Door counters allow libraries to learn which entrances are used most and which rooms and times are the busiest. With this knowledge, they can guide the placement and timing of cafes, refreshments, kiosks, exhibits, guest speakers, study groups, etc. Accurate people counts are also a way for libraries to increase their awareness of how many people are using services but not checking out material.

When libraries are able to justify requests for new or updated technology, they can prove the necessity of their facility to the community. They can show that they are still a valuable resource in an age where Kindles and tablets are common household objects. As libraries go digital, knowing the amount of people who enter and exit the building is becoming much more important than knowing the amount of books that are being checked out. People counting systems are able to provide more information, and in turn, more services.