Shortly after I began my career as a librarian, the Web made its appearance to the general public. Even with the broad scope afforded me through my educational background, I didn’tbelieve the Web would amount to much. I could not imagine that this unimpressive resource would shake the very concept of the library as it had been known for hundreds of years.
The shaking hasn’t stopped yet. College librarians are faced with the challenge of expanding digital media and study space while reducing print media. That reduction includes withdrawing books from the shelves, which, in effect, means selling, recycling, giving away, storing off-site (for those who can afford it), discarding, or shredding texts. Suddenly college librarians, among the world’s greatest lovers of books, are viewed in certain corners as book destroyers.
It is a college-altering moment, and during such moments it’s good to take stock of the basics. Most librarians know Ranganathan’s Five Laws of Library Science, published in 1931 by S.R. Ranganathan, an Indian mathematician, philosopher, and librarian. They are still influential, though librarians have modified his language to accommodate new media and contemporary usage. And so I consider Ranganathan’s laws here, and how they might apply to the fluctuating state of college libraries.