The Library Is a Growing Organism: Ranganathan's Fifth Law of Library Science and the Academic Library in the Digital Era

By Barner, Keren | Library Philosophy and Practice, September 2011 | Go to article overview

The Library Is a Growing Organism: Ranganathan's Fifth Law of Library Science and the Academic Library in the Digital Era


Barner, Keren, Library Philosophy and Practice


Introduction

In this era, the academic library traditional position as central mediator is no longer guaranteed. Today, many academic information consumers reject the library's mediation in their search for information; they prefer to do it on their own, using their personal computer. From home, office, bus or the coffee shop they search through Google, Yahoo and likes as their homepage instead of using the academic library facilities, the physical ones and/or on lines. (See, for example, Budd, 2009; Martell, 2008; Nicholas et. al, 2008b). Disintermediation in academic libraries is the proper term for this phenomenon (Housewright, 2009; Lukasiewicz, 2007). It is not the only symptom of the digital era libraries are coping with but with no doubt it is a huge challenge,(not just a threat) for academic libraries. It gives the academic library the opportunity and the duty to research itself and define new roles, more fitted to this changing environment and its users. Academic libraries and its librarian have a lot to offer. Their expertise within the field of information including retrieval skills, metadata, information and knowledge management or even the familiarity of using criteria in order to judge reliability and accuracy (in other words, the quality) of information is an important professional tools. It is rare qualities and valuable ones at the current information environment.

This article seeks to explore some possible creative options all aimed for finding unique ways for the academic library to grow in the digital era. New directions for supporting research and study can be taken using the library and its librarian's experience, skills and knowledge. The paper use terms and ideas derived from Darwin's theory of evolution (1996) but based first and foremost on the philosophical infrastructure phrased by Ranganathan (1931) at his fifth law of library science: The library is a growing organism. Those classical theories can offer a solid philosophical ground for the academic library, empowering it adapting itself to change, encouraging it offering its advances to scholar's communities at the digital era.

The paper will focus on three paths: impart information literacy, digital collection development and new contributions to the body of knowledge through repositories and/or co-publishing of electronic journals in order to demonstrate the usability of creativity and innovativeness grounded in Ranganathan's is fifth law of library science: the library is a growing organism. Implementation this spirit might assist not only coping better with disintermediation, but with making the academic library organism expend and flourish for the benefit of scholars, science and society.

Extending Ranganathan's Fifth Law

Ranganathan's five laws (1931) cover, theoretically and practically, the activity fields of the library in general and those of the academic library in particular. Following are the laws:

1. Books are for use.

2. Every reader his or her book.

3. Every book its reader

4. Save the time of the reader

5. The library is a growing organism

In the digital era it might be useful replace the term "book" with the term "sources of information and knowledge" and the term "reader" with the term "user/consumer"

Ranganathan's choice of words offers the opportunity to consider a linkage to Darwin's evolution theory which analyzing organisms. It is a linkage that hasn't been found at any literature reviewed for this paper or exists to the knowledge of the writer but seems to be interesting enough to explore due to its merit to this discussion.

According to Darwin, evolution has no plan or purpose. Primary differences between organisms are accidental, and those who happen to be more adapted to their environment, survive and expand. However, sometimes the environment changes at a quicker pace than the living organism can adapt itself. …

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