Five laws of library data

I propose a Ranganathan-esque set of laws for library data. I do this without any grand conceit or purpose, and for all I know, someone else might have come up with this before and done it better. I haven’t checked.

I simply began thinking recently about library data and how it can be used, re-used, and so on, and it suddenly occurred to me that hidden in the mess of everything to do with it are some principles. Those principles then reminded me of Ranganathan’s famous laws of library science.

Part of why these come to mind stems from Sarah Lamdan’s excellent vision session presentation at this year’s NASIG conference. Another prompt is starting to do in-depth study of search logs in my library’s primary search interface as I try to figure out ways to use this copious data to improve user experience. Yet another aspect is my longstanding interest in the rights libraries may or may not have to their highly valuable metadata, especially bibliographic metadata.

One of the beauties of Ranganathan’s laws and part of why they are so influential is that they are both simple and profound. They provoke a lot of thought and consideration. I hope what I’ve come up with does the same in a small way, and honestly, I need to sit on them and just contemplate them over time. In that process, it may become clear that one or more of these proposed laws needs adjustment, or perhaps application will show them to be deficient and in need of refinement.

If you are familiar with Ranganathan’s laws, you’ll notice that I borrowed one of these laws from his, with slight alteration, so I can’t lay claim to full originality.

Without further ado, here are the laws I’ve come up with:

  1. Library data are for reuse
  2. Every library user deserves data privacy
  3. Library data is for the user
  4. Save the library user’s time
  5. Library data continually evolves

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