Libraries usually have easy access to data about their budget, their staffs, their collections and their lending activitites. This information is produced by the systems used to manage their operations. But they tend to know very little about their users.
They could organize user surveys. Many libraries do. They could use systems data to study the lending patterns of their clients. A few libraries do that as well. But they would still lack information in a very basic field: what the users are doing inside the library.
How is the library space used by students and staff? Which parts of the building are most in demand? Which areas are underutilized? The TTT observation instrument is a tool to gather such data. In this paper I give a practical introduction to the method
TTT stands for the expression CounT The Traffic. TTT is a simple, but highly structured method to collect, process and present data on user behavior inside libraries. Data are collected by rapid tours of observation through the library, at fixed times during the day, usually for one full week. The tours can be carried out by library staff. The whole library is divided into functional zones, such as the periodicals area, the main desk, the reference section, reading rooms, etc. A fixed observation path and a standardized list of activities is used.
In Norway, the TTT method has been tried out in about one hundred libraries, including more than twenty academic libraries, during the last five years. Most of these studies have been carried out by library students during their practice periods, which is part of their second year of studies. But several academic libraries have continued to carry out such data collection on their own for management purposes, notably the university college libraries in Østfold, Gjøvik and in my own institution, Oslo and Akershus University College.
Students at work: Traffic observation in academic libraries is a brief paper on the TTT method for the SCECSAL 2012 conference, June 4-8, Nairobi, Kenya. The paper continues here.