Five Laws

One of the gurus of librarianship is S. R. Ranganathan. While a major developer of my profession in a variety of ways, he’s most known for his five laws of library science. For the SF readers amongst us, you can make a close parallel to the three laws of robotics.

The five laws are:
1. Books are for use.
2. Every reader his [or her] book.
3. Every book its reader.
4. Save the time of the User.
5. The library is a growing organism.

I’m going to take a moment to talk of “great rules”. Great rules are those which can be applied with very little modification to almost everything.

Look at that list. Ponder, oh, let’s say video game producers. Or maybe computer manufacturers. Or… Just about every business can use four of the five rules as solid bases for being GOOD.

The oddball is the one that gives me qualms today. Rule five, libraries are growing organisms. I don’t like the phrasing. I’m not particularly fond of the argument Ranganathan makes in his multiple page article of which this is the lead, nor of many things after.

See, the only constantly growing organism I know is cancer. Healthy organisms grow, then shrink, then die. Except if they’re truly viable they spawn their replacements before they die.

I’ve digressed, sorry. While the change of libraries is a pet topic and will undoubtedly appear again, what I really wanted to do was to introduce you all to a genius, and what is probably the pinnacle of that genius (despite the fact he lived, and made MAJOR contributions to both mathematics and library science, for more than 40 years after developing these laws.)


One thought on “Five Laws

  1. Pingback: Breakfast noodles with ham « Mental Meanderings

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