Well-respected Indian librarian Shiyali Ranganathan (1892-1972) contributed his Five Laws of Library Science to our profession in 1931.
- Books are for use
- Every reader his/her book
- Every book, its reader
- Save the time of the reader
- A library is a growing organism
Most of us learned about these as ideologies in library school and they live in the back of our minds. Some updates and variants of the original laws are listed in a Wikipedia entry.
In their 2005 Library Journal article, Ranganathan Online, Michael Cloonan and John Dove reinterpreted the ideologies for a changing information world.
In his own writings, Ranganathan expanded the literal reading of those simple laws. For instance, books are for use, really implies that all library materials, in all formats, should be unchained. The ideal library would have empty shelves or usage off the charts. (My phrasing.) Libraries are essentially about service.
Lately, I’ve been wondering how and if Ranganathan’s laws apply to today’s school libraries. And public and academic libraries too.
Even with the most expanded of readings, with the exception of Number 5, all of these laws apply to libraries that are transactional rather than transformational. The laws are about use, access, service, efficiency. And then I was thinking that even my personal favorite–Law Number 5–needed to be busted open a bit to define that type of growth we’ve seen in libraries across the board.
|The Law||In Ranganathan’s Day
|In Today’s World (Cloonan/Dove 2005)||Applied to Today’s School Library
|Books are for use||Put books in circulation—not just on the shelf||Make sure online resources are available where and when they’re needed||Books, media, tools, resources in all formats, are for use and/or creation. Make sure teachers and learners have access to traditional, current, and emerging information and communication tools and resources. Ensure that the library and all its resources, guidance, and instruction have multiple points of access. Ensure both physical and intellect access by teaching search, access, evaluation, analysis, synthesis, production/creation.|
|Every reader, his book||Break down barriers to the principle of education (and books) for all||Eliminate the obstacles that prevent users from making effective use of electronic resources||Every learner, his media, tools, channels. Actively maintain and enhance websites, pathfinders, and instructional guides, and instruction to ensure teachers and learners can access and discover the books/information/materials/media and search tools they need in all formats regardless of time or geography. Librarians work with learners to discover optimum formats to meet their reading, information and communication needs.|
|Every book, its reader||Open the stacks; provide a well-cross-referenced catalog||Integrate electronic resources into virtual learning environments and other web pages of the institution||Every book or media, its user, consumer, producer. Ensure through guidance, signage, creation and dissemination of electronic resources and active instruction that the learner can get to the information and communication resources and tools he or she needs or wants.|
|Save the time of the reader||Create effective catalogs for speeding the readers’ search for particular books||Provide metasearching capabilities so that users can search entire sets of electronic resources. And link resolvers so that readers get access to the best source||Help the learner become more effective, efficient, and productive user and creator of ideas and information. Continually evaluate physical and virtual instruction and service. Ensure the learner can access and effectively user the search tools and resources most appropriate to his or her developmental and intellectual and information needs.|
|A library is a growing organism||See libraries as part of the larger community||Offer 24/7 anytime, anywhere, access to libraries; the Information Commons; the Invisible Web||Library—virtual or physical—is a growing organism. Offer 24/7 anywhere/anytime access and instruction. The librarian must function as scout or Sherpa or guru in emerging information landscapes. The library’s collection needs continual reinterpretation.|
|Library is everywhere, anytime. Access to library resources must be available to the learner and the learning community at the point of need through the most effective communication and delivery tools of the time and those that best meet the community’s needs.|
|Libraries are learning spaces. Libraries are as much transformational as they are transactional. Libraries are about literacies, transliteracy. The library actively employs its staff, resources, and tools to help learners/users learn, collaborate, invent, create, publish, communicate, share.|