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The evolution of the five laws of library science

Nandkumar M Kamat


August 12 is National Librarian’s day. There are about 3, 50, 000 libraries in world. India has more than 70,000 and Goa has more than 300. Since printing began, 130 million books have been published. Every year more than two million new books are added. Among 127 countries which print and publish books, China ranks first (4, 40, 000) and Indian 7th (90,000) in number of new books published. About 800 new books are published in Goa every year. The oldest public library in India, the present Krishnadas Shyama state central library was founded on 15 September 1832.

In India’s highest literate state Goa, August 12 is restricted to a few isolated events. Goa has seen champions of libraries like Aleixo Manuel da Costa (1909-2000), Marathi editor, writer B D Satoskar who formed the first association of librarians and mooted a library act, V G Hubali, Vithal Navelkar, Archana Kakodkar, Prabhakar Burye, Tanaji Halarnkar (CPIR/Goa University), Murari Tapaswi (NIO) and the present dynamic, visionary curator Carlos Fernandes. The 21st century is the age of information and knowledge. It is the age of libraries in their new ‘avatars’ as information centres with the addition of electronic and digital contents.

S R Ranganathan (12 August 1892 to 27 September 1972), mathematician and librarian is widely recognised nationally and internationally as the father of library science, documentation, and information science in India. This article is dedicated to librarians who serve us because, the birthday of S R Ranganathan August 12 is observed in India as National Librarian’s Day. Ranganathan contributed what are known as the “five laws of library science” proposed in 1931. Besides he developed the colon classification. His five laws of library science are now accepted worldwide as fundamental tenets of library science.

These laws are: Books are for use. Every reader has his/her book. Every book its reader. Save the time of the reader. The library is a growing organism. The first laws gives a lot of stress on actual use of the books, giving the benefit of readers than merely accumulating, hoarding, guarding the books in a library and locking them in shelves and cabinets. One comes across libraries in many educational institutions where dust and cobwebs are seen on cupboards. Ranganathan criticised treating books in this manner.

His second law is very important because there would discerning readers who would be interested in a wide variety of books. The second law is related to bibliophile diversity. Book lovers have diverse reading preferences. It is therefore the job of the librarians to find these.

The third law is related to matchmaking between books and readers and focuses on probability of every book on the library shelf finding a reader. This is very important law in the information age. In any library one would find some books which are read by very few people. But there won’t be any book without at least one reader. A librarian’s efficiency depends on services – how fast and accurately a book required by a reader is found. Now electronic cataloguing has made this job easier. One of the well maintained catalogues can be found on the website of Goa University library Goa University librarian, Gopakumar has made the library website user friendly and rich in its contents.

The fifth law is very important because there is a tendency on the part of governments to cut the budgets of libraries, but all libraries need to buy new books and replace the old and damaged ones. It has taken Goa University 30 years to increase the number of library books five times.

The world took notice of these five laws and new thinking led to improvement and additions. Librarian Michael Gorman and Walt Crawford USA- suggested reformed laws- Libraries serve humanity. Respect all forms by which knowledge is communicated. Use technology intelligently to enhance service. Protect free access to knowledge. Honor the past and create the future. With the rise of the internet there was a need felt by librarian Alireza Noruzi who applied the five laws of Ranganathan to the web in 2004 – these are-Web resources are for use. Every user has his or her web resource. Every web resource its user. Save the time of the user. The web is a growing organism. Later another librarian Carol Simpson came forward with an appeal to include the growth of media with her five new laws- Media are for use. Every patron has his information. Every medium its user. Save the time of the patron. The library is a growing organism.

B Shadrach in 2015 proposed another reform in these laws – Knowledge is for use in ‘all’ forms. Every citizen has the right to access ‘all’ knowledge in ‘all’ forms. Every piece of knowledge is for access by ‘all’ without discrimination of any kind. Save the time of ‘all’ of the knowledge seekers. A library or a knowledge system is one that evolves with time to achieve all of the above laws.

Achala Munigal in 2016 advocated the inclusion of social tools and came out with these new laws – Social media is for use – increasingly in libraries by librarians. Every user has his/her social tool. Every social tool its user. Save time of user by providing information he/she seeks using the social tool he/she is familiar with. Social media is a growing organism. Let us see how these five laws further evolve. We salute the librarians today.

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