5 Laws of Library Science

Online libraries and repositories of knowledge along any type of dimension are everywhere. The basic principles that have traditionally been used to design physical libraries with print books also apply to the online world of knowledge management, which IBM defines as the “process of identifying, organizing, storing and disseminating information within an organization.”

This post is a summary of the book, The Five Laws of Library Science by S.R. Ranganathan.

Most Americans are probably familiar with the Dewey Decimal System. This basic system of organization of library books was developed by Melvin Dewey in 1876. According to Wikipedia, the Dewey Decimal Classification is used in over 200,000 libraries in 135 countries.

Another luminary of library science – and a name less familiar to most of us – is S.R. Ranganathan. He developed a classification based on facets, pre-determined categories of characteristics. He also proposed five “laws” that libraries should implement to ensure maximum effectiveness.

1. Books are for use.

A library should be a welcoming environment that provides easy access and convenience for customers. The primary duty of staff is that of “curator.”

2. Books are for all.

The library should provide education for every person. Staff need to be knowledgeable to recommend books. The focus of librarians is to continually provide fresh content, anticipate needs of customers and promote the library’s content. Since books are meant to be available, access through controls such as due dates and maximum books-per-person limits is essential.

3. Every book has a reader.

Because librarians don’t know what customers are looking for, customers should be able to see and examine all content areas. Librarians can facilitate browsing by organizing books using a classification system.

Promotion content is vital to bring it to the awareness of customers. All forms of publicity should be leveraged, including person-to-person, exhibitions, catalogs, flyers and news. Another way to increase awareness is through the use of communities of practice and education offerings (lectures, tips sheets, etc.).

4. Save the time of readers.

Libraries can encourage reading by helping customers find what they are looking for.

  • Use proper signage to direct customers and increase the visibility of high demand content.
  • Ensure that librarians are knowledgeable to assess readers and understand needs.
  • Implement a standard classification system.

5. A library is always changing.

Librarians should anticipate that the number of books will increase. They must consider needs for space to accommodate the increase. An important aspect of planning for more books is to use a classification system that works for smaller numbers of books initially and more books later.

Modification for modern systems

While these laws still apply to traditional libraries, they can be adapted for use in electronic document and knowledge management systems. “Online content” can be substituted for “Book,” and “website” or “blog” can be exchanged for “library” …

  • Online content should be utilized.
  • Online content is for all.
  • Every piece of online content has a potential viewer.
  • Websites should be designed so readers can easily find what they need.
  • Websites are continually expanding and evolving.


Sketchnoting is a form of visual note taking. It combines drawing, writing, and organization to create notes that enhance learning.

Below is my sketchnote of The Five Laws of Library Science.

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