Date of this Version
95:3 Law Library Journal 411 (Summer 2003).
This article is adapted from a column that I wrote for Legal Assistant Today in 1996. The column’s audience was legal assistants, some of whom, I discovered over my seven years as a columnist for the publication, had responsibility for managing law firm libraries or library resources in addition to their other duties. So from time to time my column drifted into advice about managing libraries. This particular column came about at a time when I was mentoring some younger librarians and discovered to my surprise that they did not know of Ranganathan’s Five Laws of Library Science. When I expressed concern about this to professional colleagues, I was even more surprised to find that many of them hadn’t heard of or couldn’t remember the great Indian library theorist’s five laws either.
I have returned to the subject for several reasons. First, at the time I wrote the original column, I also wanted to share my thoughts on the five laws with my law library peers in a source they were more likely to read than Legal Assistant Today. Such are the vagaries of life that it has taken seven years to finally write directly for my peers. Second, Richard Danner mentioned my earlier column in a provocative article he wrote about the law library profession,3 noting that it deserved wider circulation. At the time, two years after publication of the column, I made a mental note to get busy and follow through with my initial urge to write on the subject for Law Library Journal. Again, time slipped away.
But above all, Ranganathan’s five laws deserve repeating, frequently and regularly. It is my wish that those not familiar with Ranganathan will become interested in his work, and that those who recognize the name but have not reflected on the five laws lately (or who have forgotten them entirely) will have their interest rekindled and, in the process, have their professional enthusiasm and inspiration rejuvenated as well.