Laws and OrdersPosted: June 3, 2013
The sciences abound with laws, theorems, axioms, principles and equations. An educated reader, even a science-phobic one like yours truly, recognizes the contributions of Einstein, Newton, Pythagoras, Bernoulli, and Pascal as major breakthroughs in the understanding of their disciplines.
But what about Ranganathan?
And why does a seemingly serious post lead with a parade of book covers featuring some wimpy kid?
Let’s take on the wimpy kid first. A year-end report of the top-circulated titles in my K-5 elementary school library reveals that six of the top ten are devoted to telling the life story of Greg Heffley, our aforementioned wimpy one. He’s a very popular guy!
Segue to S. R. Ranganathan. Not as popular as Greg Heffley. But, perhaps a greater influence on Library Science. In 1931, Ranganathan (some say the father of modern librarianship) published his treatise, The Five Laws of Library Science. At 458 pages, a hefty read. But it all boils down to these simple library truths.
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.
And for me, Truth #2 is never more evident when I look at my circulation statistics. Back to Greg. My students just love him. So, when it comes time to place my book orders, I don’t just order one, two or three copies of each book in this series. I order four, five or six. Give the customer what s/he wants.
If that means I might have a few more snarky middle school boy characters, princesses and rainbow fairies than I would otherwise prefer to give shelf space to, so be it. But, hey, my students are borrowing and reading them. Ah-ha! Principle #1-Books are for use.
The beauty of a diverse collection is that it can also serve the students whose tastes go beyond the current popular trend. This is where reader’s guidance and Axiom #3 come into play. When I can put an oft-forgotten, overlooked or underappreciated book in the hands of just the right reader, I can feel good ol’ S. R. looking over my shoulder with a smile.
I’ve always regarded librarianship as an art more than a science, but these fundamental laws of Ranganathan have been guiding principles in my practice. Laws #4 and #5 are worthy of blog posts of their own and will have them some day. For now, I am off to work on my book orders for next year, which will be sure to include more than a few copies of the yet to be named, Diary of a Wimpy Kid Book 8.