What is a library, the 5 Laws of the Library, and being behind in my studies before I’ve even started…

It’s the first week of my Information Management degree. And I’ve been so sick I had to miss classes.

So I’m behind already. Yay?

Fortunately, RMIT films every lecture, and makes all the course material available online. So I watched the lecture for LIBR1085 Information Discovery this morning, and now I just need to do the tute assignment and read through the first assignment and…


One thing I still need to get my head around is how I’m going to take notes from lectures.

I’m not taking notes just so I can regurgitate facts in an exam. I’m taking notes so I can understand the concepts, so I can apply them professionally, so I can be good at being a librarian.

Which means my note taking during lectures should be about flagging important concepts to remember later. And then “later” should be writing up those concepts, with a short summary, some reflections on why it’s important, and some ideas of how it applies in a professional context.

I’m not sure if this blog is the best place to do this, or the website we’ve set up as part of The Digital Information Environment subject.

Some other things I need to do:

  • set up a separate RMIT account on my laptop, so I can keep my study files and webpages separate from my personal ones.
  • work out how much time I need to spend on each subject outside of official class time, and block that time out
  • also: block out some time for additional reading. And start using a “read later” app like Pocket or Instapaper to organise this.


I’ve been mulling over a snappy definition of what is a library for some time. The best answer I’ve come up with is:

A location where a community can engage with information.

It’s a bit vague. And I’ve italicised some of those terms because they really need their own explanations. Maybe that’s a later post.

But I mention it because this week’s lectures included a slide about the different types of Information Agencies, and had this description of libraries on it:

Library: A collection of published items acquired through purchase or donation for the community served by the library. The items are organised according to a system such as the Dewey Decimal System and available for use. They are usually not unique and are therefore replaceable. Published items could be in any format.

I like that ‘available for use’ bit. One of the things I struggled in my definition was distinguishing between libraries and universities, until I settled on a university where you create and pass on information, whereas a library is where you can engage with it. Which is how I interpret ‘available for use’.

Which segues nicely into this week’s Cool Concept I Learnt in Class:


These laws were proposed by Siyali Ramamrita Ranganathan in 1931. They are:

  1. Books are for use.
  2. Every reader his / her book.
  3. Every book its reader.
  4. Save the time of the reader.
  5. The library is a growing organism.

Wikipedia has an excellent expansion on what each of these laws mean, but here’s my quick thoughts:

  1. Books are for use.
    Preservation and protection are important only in that they preserve a work for long-term use.
  2. Every reader his / her book.
    Libraries are for their communities, and should meet their community’s needs.
  3. Every book its reader.
    Popularity is not the same as need: a book with only a small readership can still be vital
  4. Save the time of the reader.
    Help readers find what they want quickly by organising and contextualising your collection
  5. The library is a growing organism.
    Libraries, grow, change, and adapt to server their communities.

Incidentally, Wikipedia tell my that S. R. Ranganathan ‘is considered to be the father of library science, documentation, and information science in India and is widely known throughout the rest of the world for his fundamental thinking in the field. His birthday is observed every year as the National Library Day in India.’

How beautiful is that?

Okay. Enough blather. Things to do…



About davidwitteveen

IT person. Zine Maker. Level 0 Library Nerd. Doctor Who fan.
This entry was posted in ideas worth stealing, library nerding and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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