Who goes there?
In the modern library why do we still worry about gate count?
The first response I usually get is that the number relates to user traffic, which equals library use. From this administrators can adjust library hours to suit user needs. Where this may seem like a viable opinion, how many libraries can tout having contents through which their entrants only do “library-centric” activities? When we started adding cafes, video games, and group study rooms; how far did we stray from what makes a library a library?
I am not saying these innovations aren’t effective or contrary to our mission, but are there other ways to determine peak activity and effective library use?
Head counts done through sampling are another common means to identify library use by time, but this is a rather labor intensive process that may not capture consisten trends in seasonal use. In larger libraries this process may be more wasteful in staff utilization than the value of the data produced. If a parton shifts floors or areas, will the recorder notice this and not count?
It is equally implausible to use circulation data or reference data to justify traffic, but these numbers are more accurate for actual use than gate counts can truly be. Depending on the level of granularity employed in collecting the statistics, one can begin transforming raw data into a patchwork of trends and predictions. Are there times when the desk is unusually busy and we can staff an extra person as back up? When the desk is equally as barren can we rely on a triage model or smaller staffing decisions?
At some point in time libraries will be forced to set their hours for what they can financially support. Budget cuts across the nation have already forced some libraries to eliminate positions and revamp their services. What would happen if we started keeping shorter hours and allowing students to do more remotely? Would some students be offended? Perhaps, but I have seen students waiting outside the doors at the most ungodly hours and not understanding why the doors weren’t always open. Libraries will always be used and we should be focusing on what students need from us and what services are most vital to the campus. If what we do is an accurate respresentation of what they need, our success will speak greater volumes than any spreadsheet showing archaic gate counts.
Just my opinion though.