Monday, April 24, 2006

Five Laws Rule My World

It may not be clear now--particularly since I've posted only about a half dozen times on this blog--but it will become clear that I think Mr. Ranganathan was a pretty smart fellow. Best known for his Five Laws of Library Science (posted below) and his colon classification to organize a library's collection, Ranganathan essentially revolutionized the field of library science in India.

I think it's a shame that his work is out of print here in the US (I've ordered a copy of COLON CLASSIFICATION from India) and that more MLS/MLIS holders don't get the chance to read him. Of course, you can check the book out of your library; nearly every university that has an ALA accredited program has copies of his book in their collection.

I read THE FIVE LAWS OF LIBRARY SCIENCE this last fall, and found it completely amazing. To think that this book had been written in the 1930s when the concept of a computer only existed on the pages of science fiction novels. The five laws are so clear and concise and adaptable that they are as usable today as they were seventy years ago.

The laws are:

  1. Books are for use.
  2. Every reader has his or her book.
  3. Every book has its reader.
  4. Save the time of the reader.
  5. The library is a growing organism.
The laws almost seem over-obvious today. Who would want to make a library of books that the patrons couldn't use? Who would want to make a library of books that no one wanted? Of course, I'm sure you can think of one or two people who would rather the patrons stayed home and books stayed on the shelf.

In honor of how I feel about Ranganathan and his five laws, I am going to use them to shape how I get myself oriented into my new jobs as teen librarian and systems administrator. I'll use the laws to learn about the positions and to make plans for the future.

For example, law 1, Books are for use. The YA section of the library was set up...let's say poorly and needs to be reorganized. The most-used books (the graphic novels) are buried in the section and my YA patrons are faced with the end of the alphabet as they walk from the front door to the YA section. So, one of the ways I will apply law 1 to my new job(s) is to reorganize the YA section. Also, we are undergoing renovation, so I will need to set up the new YA section in its own room once the library is finished. Therefore, I will be applying law 1 twice the organization of the YA section.

Continuing on law 1, I can think about other ways I can (and the library at large) organize its collections (and my specific collection development areas, i.e. should all the travel books be placed together in their own section?) and make them more conducive for patron use?

Right now I am brainstorming all the things I need to do and want to do and then categorizing them into the Five Laws. I'll be putting up an official post when the list is complete (at least complete enough to get started) and I'll post regular updates as I cross stuff off my list. If I get motivated I'll create a web page where you'll be able to click on each law and expand my personal to-do list from it.

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