I had an invitation this week, to attend a seminar in Ahmedabad, India which is being held to commemorate 125 years of the birth of S.R.Ranganathan. The event appears to be called “Librarian’s Day”, which I think is a lovely sort of day to have. Just think if “Librarian’s” day became a national event. People would have to visit a library and give a librarian a present. Books would be acceptable, but so would chocolate, cake, money, fast cars, expensive shoes, fancy electronic gadgetry. But I digress. Apparently, according to Wikipedia, which as you know is always right, Ranganathan’s birthday is celebrated in India by “National Library Day”.
I first came across the life of S.R Ranganathan during my master’s course in Information and Library Science. I was fascinated by the idea of a young, Indian, mathematical genius coming all the way to the UK to study Library Science. Not only that, but he brought a fresh, straightforward view to the profession devising a new classification system (Colon Classification) and five “laws” of Library Science.
I was so enchanted by his “Laws” that I turned them into a poster which I laminated and put on the wall of my School Library, where I was librarian at the time. I have no idea whether they are still there and I don’t have a picture of them, so I am sorry I cannot show you my poster. I can tell you what the laws are, however.
- Books are for use
- Every reader his / her book.
- Every book its reader.
- Save the time of the reader.
- The library is a growing organism
Books are for use
Some people may consider that books are special, sacred objects, or things that are far too precious for people to handle, or even that they make splendid decorations or statements of being “learned”. But a book is merely a carrier of a message, from author to reader and to receive the message you must read the book. Ranganathan was also meaning that they should be accessible. There is a lovely conversation in his book “the Five Laws of Library Science” between the First Law and the Laws of Cost and Space. The First Law law argues that books should be on shelves within reach of a person of average height. I tend to take down books that are in pubs or cafe’s as decoration and start reading them.
Every reader their book – Every book its reader
Somewhere there is the right book for every person, the book that inspires, influences and makes them discover that reading is a joy, a pleasure. I have spent a lot of time teaching children to read. Sometimes is a difficult process, reading is like swimming, sometimes people take to it instantly, but for others it is not so easy. But there is always a key book, the one that unlocks their desire to turn page upon page and get to the ending. For my son it was James and the Giant Peach. For my younger daughter it was the Usbourne Little Book of Horses and Ponies. Two very different personalities with different needs. Ranganathan considered that libraries should stock ranges of books to appeal to different types of readers.
Save the time of the reader
This means that books must not only be accessible, but also easily accessible – easy to find with classification systems and helpful staff. How else would you find your perfect book?
The library is a growing organism
Ranganathan considers that a library is never complete. It expands and changes as the needs of the community develops and as new books appear. If you happen to be like me and a collector of books you know what it is like. I have
been known to sneak new bookshelves into my study at home without my other half noticing, in order to accommodate the piles that are creeping over the floor. Information grows, therefore libraries grow.
Ranganathan published these laws in 1931, a long time from the current information explosion and digitisation. However, taking his principles for having a library that is accessible for everyone I am quite sure that were he alive today, he would be promoting Open Access to information, digitisation and the accessibility of e-books.