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What Are the Laws of Library Science?

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  • Written By: Karize Uy
  • Edited By: Lauren Fritsky
  • Last Modified Date: 21 November 2016
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The laws of library science are a set of rules that defines how the library system should offer its services to people. Indirectly, they are also guidelines for all library users on how to respect books and fellow users in a library setting. In 1931, Shiyali Ramamrita Ranganathan, known as the father of library science, published a book titled “The Five Laws of Library Science," the contents of which have become widely accepted as the primary principles of library science. These five laws can be summarized in five statements, the first two of which are “Books are for use” and “Every reader his book.” The latter three statements are “Every book its reader,” “Save the time of the user,” and “The library is a growing organism.”

The first law, “Books are for use,” states that libraries exist primarily to give people access to books, and protection and preservation of books is only secondary. It has been observed that libraries often keep books away so as to prevent them from being damaged or stolen, to the point that they are almost inaccessible. Books, however, are meant to be read so people can gain knowledge and an appreciation for literature. In accordance to this law, libraries should be located in “reachable” locations, should have appropriate opening hours and lending policies, and should employ a welcoming, professional staff.

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The second and third laws of library science, “Every reader his book” and “Every book its reader,” respectively, are often used interdependently. The second law explains that every single library user has the right to get and receive any book or piece of information based on his taste and need. The third law, on the other hand, states that every book in the library is valuable and useful, even if only one person is in need of it. Generally, these laws of library science prevent any kind of discrimination towards readers and books, and require that all sorts of literary genres, references, and other sources or information are included in the collection. The laws also recommend libraries have a knowledgeable, competent staff and a transparent shelving system.

Issues of efficiency and organization are specifically discussed in the fourth law: “Save the time of the reader.” Readers should be able to look for what they want and need promptly. Application of this fourth law can be seen in indexes, card catalogs, and bibliographies. Even how books are arranged, whether alphabetically, be genre, or by the Dewey Decimal System, are a reflection of the importance of how libraries can and should “Save the time of the reader.”

The final law in Ranganathan’s Five Laws of Library Science is that “The library is a growing organism.” In this law, the word “growing” or “growth” not only points to the quantity of accumulated books and documents, but also the recency of these resources. This law also connotes how library systems should be able to adapt to changes, such as when digital and online resources have become more widely used.

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