Bums on (library) seats

Every year I compile a fairly comprehensive annual report detailing key stats and usage figures relating to expenditure and use of Information & Library Services here at Cambridge Judge Business School. One of the most interesting figures to come out of this year’s report was footfall.

Despite the fact that we provide virtually all of our databases remotely, have a limited number of study desks (56 in total) and book borrowing has fallen by 16% this year (primarily we think due to greater investment in e-books) we have had a massive 33% increase in footfall: 62,600 visitors compared to 47,115 visitors the previous year. And this is on top of a 31% increase in footfall in 2008-09!  Why?

 N.B. If you think these footfall totals are low I should explain that we only have around 400 business students here each year, although we do also provide access to all members of the University of Cambridge.

One of the seemingly obvious explanations was that we went 24/7 half-way through last year, but the low stats we have taken on out-of-hours use don’t even begin to make up this difference. Growth in student numbers is similarly minimal, 5% at most, so that also fails to explain it away. Another possibility could be that as the business school grows there are less ‘havens of tranquility’ in our building than there once was and students and staff are now coming to us for that. I certainly know from a recent space survey I conducted that the respondents wanted our space to be absolutely silent and furthermore that they come to us to study as much as to use our collections. Another explanation – my personal favourite –  could simply be that we now market our service more heavily and regularly (than ever before), we are ‘on the radar’ if you will, and higher footfall is one of the dividends. However, it’s worth mentioning that we have never directly encouraged users to come to the Business Information Centre (formerly Library) in fact our message has conversely concentrated instead on our web presence and  the idea that our services are available wherever you are and that we are categorically not defined by our physical space.  Whatever the reasons, presumably a good mixture of all the above, there is no question that regardless of the fact that 82% of my expenditure is on electronic resources (that can be accessed by our members anywhere in the world), our physical space is still very important to our users and that any future plans and strategies should actively recognise this fact.

I’d be very interested to hear whether the footfall increases here are following or bucking the trend…

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2 thoughts on “Bums on (library) seats

  1. Sarah Stamford says:

    I wondered whether the increased footfall/lower borrowing stats might reflect that people are coming into the library but not finding what they want? (Or just coming in because it’s a nice place to while away the time …?)

    I’m afraid we don’t keep footfall stats, but our borrowing figures were slightly up last year.

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    1. libreaction says:

      I’m fairly certain that our users principally want study space and access to our databases. Our 2009-10 survey results show that over 90% of respondents consider both the service and team to be either excellent or very good so I’d be surprised if we had users not finding what they want.

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