When I was new to the library world, I learned how to do “reference service work”. The library customer would walk through the doors and ask for a subject. Whether it was too broad or too narrow in focus, it was my job to find the answer. I noticed every day that the people who were asking the questions were the same people every day. Repeat business meant you were doing the job right but something was missing. Even though I found the answers, the sources that the customers were looking for, the researching model seemed one-sided. The repeat business was not learning how to remain information literate. The customers were just learning how to ask me questions.
I started to notice that what I was telling them started to form a record based on what each customer had asked for over the days and weeks. The customer records kept building with relationships to sources in the library collection. The records of customers started to help me create record connections to each type of source. The record relationships showed the customers’ library usage habits. Those habits started to mirror a learning method that was discussed in Bringing Out the Best: A Guide for Parents of Young Gifted Children. In one section of the book, Saunders and Espeland correlate information literacy to talking, tinkering, and traveling—“The Three T’s”.
Even though this book was primarily stressing a bond between parent and child, I realized that it could also define the bond between librarian and customer. Each customer that I had helped, I had talked (discussed) with them about the problem that they had. I offered some insight into sources that could possibly help them. I showed them how to use the library catalog database in the library and also how they could continue their searching from their own homes or businesses.
The customers were performing another “T” called “tinkering”. The “tinkering” aspect of information literacy allowed the customer to expand upon my discussion via a training exercise on the library catalog database. The customer then was left to “tinker” on their own.
Sometimes what the customers found would prompt them to travel, the third “T” of The Three T’s method, to other sources, whether it was a source in the library collection in another branch or names of contacts, they were willing to “travel” to get more information on their problems. They would e-mail me when a source was found to not be helpful or when the source had led to another source. Our interactions continued to go to my reference service work records.
I continued this process throughout my management of the following collections and archives: disability issues; health sciences; transportation services; business solutions; higher education governance issues; higher education course lesson-plans. All of these experiences have helped me in my current position.
Today, I have built upon The Three T’s to not only include reference service work record relationships but also lesson-planning records in higher education. As a college professor, I must also instill the learning method of The Three T’s in my students. The Three T’s allows not only librarians and records managers to be on the same researching page of their customers but allows teachers to be on the same page with their students. This is a much needed occurrence which promotes information literacy in another educational setting—the college classroom.
Stay Tuned for the next steps I experienced with information literacy through The Three T’s method.
Editor’s Note – this article first published in Computer Savviness – and republished with the author’s permission.