library science

S. R. Ranganathan, known as the "the father of library science in India," and respected by librarians all over the world, proposed five laws of library science. Most librarians worldwide accept them as the foundations of their philosophy.

These laws are:

  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.

The Five Laws of Library Science are some of the most influential concepts in that field. Since they were published in 1931, these five laws “have remained a centerpiece of professional values...” (Rubin 2004). These basic theories of Library Science continue to directly affect the development of this discipline and the service of all libraries.

S. R. Ranganathan’s early education was of a mathematic background. This systematic way of thinking, he later applied to his work in library science, most notably his work on library classification and administration. (Indian Statistical Institute Library, et al 2007) “From the middle of the nineteenth century, librarians in the west felt the need and started emphasizing the importance of enhanced services to library patrons. Formulation of the Five Laws of Library Science at long last, provided a solid and lasting foundation in this direction.” (Kabir 2003)

First law: Books are for use. (Ranganathan 1931) This may seem obvious within the context of today’s libraries, but books were not always accessible to patrons at their libraries. There was a time when books were literally chained to the stacks on which they were shelved. Later, it was not uncommon for libraries to have stacks that were completely closed to the public. There a still a few types of libraries that work this way today, but the libraries that most people are familiar with have stacks that are open to the public.

Second Law: Every reader his or her book. (Ranganathan 1931) Any patron from the library community should have access to the books in the library. Any person has a right to use the collections housed in the library. There are not certain books or collections that some audiences within the population can not access. Collections should be developed that every part of the population will be interested in.

Third Law: Every book its reader. (Ranganathan 1931) This law is about items in the library’s collection, and who uses them. Each book in the library has a member of the community that will find the book useful or interesting. One of the major developments that Ranganathan contributed through this law is the idea that if a book is not being used often it needs exposure to groups of readers who will find it useful.

Fourth Law: Save the time of the Reader. (Ranganathan 1931) This law makes it clear that if readers find what they are looking for in a timely manner they will be more satisfied, and more likely to feel like their needs have been met. This not only makes library service more efficient, but also makes the reader feel like their search has been an effective one.

Fifth Law: The library is a growing organism. (Ranganathan 1931) This law says that the library is dependent on life and change. Without the human and organizational changes that occur, the library would neither function properly, nor meet its purpose.


In 1998, librarian Michael Gorman (past president of the American Library Association, 2005-2006), recommended the following laws in addition to Ranganathan's five in his small book, "Our Singular Strengths":

  1. Libraries serve humanity.
  2. Respect all forms by which knowledge is communicated.
  3. Use technology intelligently to enhance service.
  4. Protect free access to knowledge.
  5. Honor the past and create the future.

In 2004, librarian Alireza Noruzi recommended applying Ranganathan's laws to the web in his paper, " Application of Ranganathan's Laws to the Web":

  1. Web resources are for use.
  2. Every user has his or her web resource.
  3. Every web resource its user.
  4. Save the time of the user.
  5. The Web is a growing organism.

Selected bibliography

  • Indian Statistical Institute Library and Sarada Ranganathan Endowment for Library Science. “S.R. Ranganathan - A Short Biography.” Indian Statistical Institute. (accessed January 26, 2007).
  • Kabir, Abulfazal M. “Ranganathan: A Universal Librarian.” Journal of Educational Media and Library Sciences. 40:4 (June 2003) :453-59.
  • Ranganathan, Shiyali Ramamrita. The Five Laws of Library Science. London: Edward Goldston. 1931.
  • Ranganathan, Shiyali Ramamrita. "The Five Laws of Library and information Science", Delhi, Ess Ess Publications (Reprint) 2007.
  • Rubin, Richard E. Foundations of Library and Information Science. 2nd ed. New York: Neal-Schuman Publishers. 2004.

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