An open book

William Howard Doane Library

Librarians have been curating information from the earliest days of cuneiform-covered clay tablets of Mesopotamia (technically, they were wireless, too) to the amazing digital tablets of today. At this week’s provost-sponsored Tuesday Faculty Lunch, Moriana Garcia, Denison’s natural sciences librarian, brought us up to date. She elucidated current library practices that evolve with every technological advance, but continue to recognize the five basic laws of library science first posited by S. R. Ranganathan in 1931. They are:

    • Books are for use.
    • Every reader has his or her book.
    • Every book has its reader.
    • Save the time of the reader.
    • The library is a growing organism.

Moriana Garcia

At first glance, these laws may seem simple enough to understand, but like libraries themselves, there’s much more here than meets the eye. For instance, in the not-so-distant past, counter to Ranganathan’s position, books were considered to be objects to be preserved, instead of actually used. Today, Ranganathan’s idea of “books” as objects for use has been expanded to include additional library resources in a number of forms.

Garcia’s position illustrates these shifting paths of library science. The staff of William Howard Doane Library includes four liaisons, each of whom has a depth of knowledge in a specialized area. Garcia’s is natural sciences, which is appropriate as, in addition to her master’s degree in library and information science, she holds a doctorate in pharmacology.

Denison’s William Howard Doane Library was built in 1937 by William Gehron. Constructed in Harvard brick laid in Flemish bond with Bedford limestone trim, its details draw from Georgian style, although the facade is modeled after the Petit Trianon in the Garden of Versailles in France. The stacks portion of the library was extended in 1957, and the Seeley G. Mudd Learning Center was added in 1981.

The library’s mission is to inspire and educate the Denison community as lifelong learners and active citizens, offer comprehensive services that foster creativity and collaboration, and that support diverse learning styles.

As for the future of libraries, Garcia doesn’t claim to have a crystal ball, but she’s confident in a few predictions. Libraries will continue to update their facilities with user-centered design and function, and they will continue to be at the forefront technological advances, curating an ever-expanding volume of both physical and digital resources.

When discussing the human element, she sums up the mission of those in her line of work simply and eloquently, “The role of librarians is to take care of knowledge,” she says. “We work to collect, preserve, and organize knowledge, and to make it available.”

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