5 Library Science Laws

The five laws of library science were developed in the early 1930's by a man named Sirkali Ramamrita Ranganathan, an Indian mathematician and librarian. He is often referred to as the father of library science for his two major contributions to the field: the five laws of library science and the colon classification system. The five laws of library science that were so influential to the field are outlined below:

Essential Laws to Library Science

  1. Books are for use: During Ranganathan's time, the librarian's main purpose was to accumulate and preserve. That often meant making the book inaccessible to the reader. Being as books are made to be read, Ranganathan felt that librarians needed to re-prioritize. Yes, books should be preserved, but they ought to be preserved for the sake of the reader. The first purpose of a library, he thought, was keeping those books in use.
  2. Every reader his book: Ranganathan viewed education as a right and reading as part of education. Therefore, any member of the community must be allowed to come into the library for the purpose of reading. He also thought it was important that the library serve the particular interests of the community.
  3. Every book its reader: As stated before, many libraries in the 1930's thought preservation was more important than use. This lead to many books being unknown to or out of reach of the patron. Ranganathan thought that every book in the library had a purpose for at least one person in the community. He thought that the books ought to be displayed in a way where they were made available and visible to the patron.
  4. Save the time of the reader: This law encompasses a world of different things. Book placement is one of them. Are the books arranged on the floor so that they might easily be found? Does the library staff have a quick mind for reference when it comes to the library's layout? Are the books catalogued and cross-referenced efficiently? Is every possible step taken to reduce the time it takes for a patron to find the book he or she wishes to read?
  5. The library is a growing organism: This law is two-fold. First, this law asserts that a library must grow. A library must always accumulate new materials to serve a community hungry for knowledge and education. In order to be an efficient library, the collections must always be growing. This law also asserts that a library must be able to change with the times. A library must be open to new strategies in organization and new technologies. Obviously, this is especially pertinent today with the introduction of online databases and the like.

With these five laws of library science, Ranganathan revolutionized the field of library science. He altered the purpose of libraries, switching from a system that was almost strictly about preservation to one that sought to bring the book to the reader. In recent years, many people have made their own versions of the five laws of library science. These people include Michael Gorman, Alireza Noruzi, and Carol Simpson. These alternate versions of the five laws of library science carry some focus on the web and multimedia. The basic principles stay the same, however; books and people ought to be brought together in the most efficient way possible.

The next step in library science education is specialization. Just like in undergraduate school (where you took general education classes before focusing on your major), in librarian programs, after you learn the basics, you move on to upper level and specialized library science courses. Some schools don't require you to specialize in one particular track and will train you in a variety of upper level courses such as museum archives, library services for early childhood, metadata, government information resources and services, digital preservation, libraries in healthcare environments, behavioral perspectives, and many other interesting and diverse courses. Other schools wish to give you in-depth training in one specialization of library science and require you to pick a track. Library science tracks can include areas like youth services, library and information services, digital libraries, competitive intelligence and knowledge management, school library media, archival studies, and other areas requiring specific knowledge. When attending a school requiring a specialization, the library science courses you take could differ greatly from that of your peers. A person studying youth services, for instance, would take a classes in things like public library service or resources for children, where as someone concentrating in digital libraries would take courses like database management or information architecture.

As you can see, there is no one answer for what kind of librarian courses one might take when receiving their master's degree in library science. The courses in library science are as vast as the library science field itself. One might work for public libraries, for the university, for elementary and secondary schools, archives, or even hospitals and government organizations. Whatever the area (or areas) of library science you wish to pursue, you can bet that programs will offer you both basic librarian courses and the specialized library science courses you need.