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Making Data Driven Decisions

Fort Worth Library
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Innovation Summary

How well do you know your library patrons? The Fort Worth Library knows them very well after implementing a cutting edge tool. One of the few urban libraries in the country utilizing the tool, the Fort Worth Library is pushing the envelope in its innovative use of customer psychographics.

Problem Statement

The Fort Worth Library faced a quickly-growing population (35 percent in ten years) that required library services in previously underserved areas. The region’s population was changing into a majority-minority one with different lifestyles and languages. It was also growing geographically. Many questions needed to be answered. Where do we place new library facilities so they are within a reasonable distance to all residents? How does a library better engage the customer? What does the library need to do to better understand its existing and potential customers? The traditional techniques (surveys, focus groups, public meetings) are labor intensive and ineffective in truly understanding library customers and the proper placement of facilities. After all, it is the regular library customers that will participate in these traditional techniques─ people the library already knows. What about the customers that do not enter into the library? How do we better understand the needs of the thousands of new city residents? This was the challenge facing the Fort Worth Library as it undertook the writing of its 20/20 Vision Plan. The Fort Worth Library sought a solution from the private sector: customer psychographics. The library understood that customer psychographics were used by retailers to find sites for new businesses and believed the concept would transfer easily to libraries. The library determined that if it used customer psychographics, it could build a map of its customers’ lifestyles, demographics, and interests, and thus build a better strategy to serve the Fort Worth community.


The Fort Worth Library used the expertise of Buxton Company, a top Fort Worth business, to develop customer service analytics for each library location. Buxton looked at the data (175 characteristics for the 68 market segments), which included customer interests, lifestyles and demographic characteristics—to assist the library in planning programs and services. This data enabled the library to confidently answer a wide variety of questions about the growing population and the changing demographics of the city. Profiles were created for each market segment in each section of the city; they included the likelihood of that segment to utilize the library. For example, after the Central Library was analyzed, data showed that 16.35 percent of the library’s customers fell in the J02: Latino Nuevo Profile. The Buxton analysis explained this market segment: “J02s represent a group of young, recent immigrants looking for better lives. Over half did not complete high school, and their incomes are one of the lowest in the country. J02 households are filled with children. In fact according to data, no other segment contains more large families than J02. Based on data collected, J02s check out materials related to children at an overwhelming rate compared to other profile segments.” Buxton goes on to state that because of the social-economic status of this market segment, they do not have the resources for leisure activities, which would account for their high library usage. The data indicates that this market segment group checks out picture books and likes newspapers as their main source of news. Audio-visual material is also a favorite item for this market segment. From this Buxton analysis, the library administration team has been given another set of options to consider in making tactical and strategic decisions.


The Fort Worth Library turned the customer psychographics data into actionable intelligence. For example, with the opening of a new Northwest branch in 2010, the library was able to take the data received from Buxton and determine what types of collections non-library users in that area would be interested in. By looking at the market segments living within an eight minute drive distance, the library was able to forecast the collection needs of the Northwest community and make better purchasing decisions for that branch opening. “In selecting adult nonfiction materials, I based my decisions heavily on the assumption that Northwest Branch would be very similar to the Summerglen Branch [a nearby branch] in its demographics. Now that I have access to the Buxton database and software, I can see exactly how Northwest is not a mirror image of Summerglen,” said Kathryn King, Adult Media Selector. As for the 20/20 plan itself, the library administration in conjunction with the Public Advisory Group developed several service and facility recommendations based on the Buxton data. For example, based on the data, current library users drive 6 – 8 minutes to get to a library (this is Texas). Therefore, the placement of new libraries would adhere to this drive time. The library combined the market segmentation data with more "traditional" branch siting standards to make recommendations. From a retail standpoint, a particular location might not be attractive (don't expect a lot of business), but from a library service mission standpoint, it is an underserved community that still needs service. In this case, market segmentation lets the library pick the best of several locations for areas with expected high use. With this actionable intelligence, the Fort Worth Library was able to better help its community.