Visits Per Capita
Visits per capita is a standard indicator in the library industry. The “per capita” measure provides a simple indicator of how much “repeat” business a library receives.
This measure is calculated by dividing the total annual in-person visits at all library facilities by the corresponding full-purpose population figure. This measure does not include visits to the Austin Public Library website for the check-out of digital materials.
FY 2015-16 Results
The goal for this measure was established at 4.16. The Library did not meet the goal, with an actual result of 3.51.
Assessment of Results
This indicator is a function of the number of in-person visits in relation to population, therefore the total number of visits must increase each year in direct proportion to population or a resulting decrease in the measure will be realized. In the last seven years, the number of visits to libraries declined 13% from 3,635,809 to 3,157,866, while the city’s population increased 17.5% from 777,953 to 913,917. This indicator has declined steadily every year from FY 2009-10 to FY 2015-16; however, despite the decline, the number of customer visits in FY 2015-16 increased 1.9% from the FY 2014-15 level of 3,099,385, the first annual increase since FY 2009-10. The complete restoration of operating hours to pre-reduction levels certainly was a contributing factor.
In addition to population growth, several factors may have contributed to the long term decline in customer visits per capita. As referenced earlier, operating hours at the Faulk Central Library were reduced 8 hours a week in FY 2011-12, following a similar reduction to library branches in FY 2008-09. Prior to the budget reductions, the number of customer visits was increasing every year. Since then, from FY 2007-08 to FY 2015-16, population increased 24% while the number of customer visits decreased 14%. The periodic closure of branches over the past 8 years for renovation and major repairs is also certainly a factor. Going forward, the single most significant factor affecting customer visits is the growth in digital materials circulation, as patrons no longer need to visit a library to take advantage of library services.
The goal in FY 2016-17 is 4.03 visits per capita, which is based on the total customer visits being 19% higher than what was realized in FY 2015-16. The achievability of this is uncertain. There are factors, iterated above, as well as the closure of Faulk Central Library in 2017 in preparation for the move to New Central Library, and the planned closure of several branches for renovations that could negatively impact the number of customer visits. Opening in FY 2017-18, the New Central Library, often touted as ‘the library of the future’, is expected to draw at least twice the number of customer visits than its predecessor, and the anticipated excitement and publicity is predicted to have a positive effect on customer visits at all library branches.
For more information contact Victoria Rieger, Library Financial Manager, at (512) 974-7446.