Sep 07 2009
A Library is a Growing Organism
My favorite one of Ranganthan’s Five Laws of Library Science is “the library is a growing organism.” Circulation of books and materials is similar to the human circulation system. Another metaphor for the “growing organism” might be a garden, with the librarian tending to healthy plants by weeding and planting (acquisition of new materials). Books that are unused or unread have no place in a healthy library. Lev Vygotsky, in Thought and Word, discussed the idea of thought being “alive.” He stated that a “a word devoid of thought is a dead thing.” In other words, when a book is opened and read it comes to life.
If we apply the law of the library as a growing organism to the Internet, what metaphors might come to mind? The resources on the Internet are almost impossible to monitor for maintaining the health of the organism. Instead of a lovely garden, is this organism more like a growing monster? Working as a school librarian, I enjoyed my role as “gardener” tending the library. In the future, will the role of the librarian be more like a knight battling a dragon or perhaps a captain navigating through storms and giant waves to bring passengers to small islands of relevant high-quality information? Or, will there be so few passengers onboard who care about the quality and authority of information, librarians will be isolated on those small islands of academia or in the hushed halls of museums? I do hope they have a garden there.