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TTT method

Librarians have, in general, very little systematic information about activities inside their libraries. Track The Traffic (TTT) is a cheap and simple method to gather such data. It gives a good numerical picture of how library users actually use the various parts of the library.  

TTT reveals both the quality  - or the kinds of activity - and the quantity of use. Combined with data on the number of visitors it will also indicate the average length of stay.

Getting started

TTT is based on regular  “tours of observation” through the public areas of the library, normally once an hour, during one or two weekly cycles. Data gathering and analysis can be carried out by the library’s own staff rather than by  hired observers and consultants. 

To carry out a TTT, you need:
  • A floor plan covering all the public areas of the library
    • Divide the plan into functional zones: reception area, newspaper section, reading room, group rooms, children’s books, etc.
    • Describe each zone: its purpose, the total area (sqm), the total no. of seats (all kinds), the total no. of stationary PCs 
  • time plan, with dates and times for all observation rounds ("walkthroughs")
  • A list of activities to be observed
    • We strongly recommend that you use the standard TTT list of Activities 
Spend two hours

You can test out the method for yourself in a couple of hours by
  1. sketching a floor plan with zones
  2. making one copy of the list of activities for each zone
  3. doing a single tour of observation, noting the number of people engaged in different observable activities as you pass.
  4. putting the numbers in a spreadsheet
  5. finding the distribution of users by zone
  6. finding the distribution of users by activity
If you decide to continue, you can treat these two hours as a test round. 

If you decide to proceed with a bigger study, all observers should participate in one or two test rounds. They need to understand the technique and to agree on interpretation. It may also be necessary to revise the floor plan. 

Spend two days

If you decide to gather data about one typical day at the library, this will require two to three days of full time work:
  1. read more about the method and how it can be used
  2. adjust the zones - based on the test run
  3. walk through the library at regular intervals throughout the day
    • choose the distance between rounds so that you end up with several hundred observations - at the least
    • in smaller libraries - less than thirty users present on the average - rounds may be done every twenty or thirty minutes
    • in medium-size libraries, with thirty to one hundred simultaneous users, rounds could done every hour
    • in larger libraries, rounds every second hour would be sufficient
  4. put the numbers in a spreadsheet
  5. calculate the distribution of users by hours
  6. calculate the distribution of users by zones
  7. calculate the distribution of users by activity
  8. explore the bivariate distributions
To get the most from the TTT results, you should gather other types of data at the same time. If you know the number of vistors (gate count) on the "observation days", you can calculate the average length of stay at the library. If you reghister the number of (physical) loans and returns, you can compare those data with the traffic. If you  register the number of reference queries, you can relate that to data on contact with staff.  

Spend two weeks

The work should preferably be shared of two or more persons. A full scale TTT study should cover at least one - and preferably two - full weeks. If you want reliable quantititative data, the counting days should be spread out as much as possible. The ideal sampling plan would be one day a month through one full year. A decent alternative, however, is to
  • do a one week study (in a typical, routine, ordinary week)
  • register the number of visits on monthly, a weekly or even a daily basis for a year
  • repat the one week study a year later
The total traffic will probably vary quite a bit through the year. By counting the number of visits on a regular basis, you get data on these fluctuations. The actual usage pattern - how traffic and activities are distributed between zones - is likely to be more stable.

Comparing the first and the second TTT study will give a good idea of the usage pattern and its stability.