Save the Time of the Reader

Time to learn something new.

This year in opening faculty meetings, I was given time to address the full faculty. I admitted that despite 20-years of experience and an excellent library science education, I somehow missed learning about the five laws of library science. Fortunately, I was present for the AASL awards ceremony this summer, where Joyce Valenza received the Distinguished Service Award. In her acceptance remarks, she quoted the fifth law of library science: “the library is a growing organism.” Being a librarian, I immediately looked up the Laws of Library Science. I found that there are five laws, and they were published in 1931 by Dr. S.R. Ranganathan.

  • First Law: Books are for use
  • Second Law: Every person his or her book
  • Third Law: Every book its reader
  • Fourth Law: Save the time of the reader
  • Fifth Law: The library is a growing organism

After the faculty meeting, a long-time member of the faculty asked about the five laws. She commented that she had never thought of the library as a place to save the time of the reader. The teacher wondered why we were always offering certain services, but she never wanted to take up our time. Now it made sense to her that we are trying to save the time of the reader.

How can we save time?

Like many other educators and business leaders, I enjoy the books and work of Brené Brown. In her recent Netflix special, “The Call to Courage,” she defines time as “a big, precious, unrenewable resource.” People value their time! So it is an excellent service to our patrons that we save them time. Think about all the ways libraries can make use and access more efficient.

What are some arrangements that save time?

The physical arrangement of the library can save teachers and students valuable time. It is a good idea to assess the shelving layout periodically. Think about how to make finding books and resources more accessible.

In 2016 we began developing a curriculum-correlated collection arrangement. We made sections to match the specific classes and significant projects at our school. For instance, we shelve fiction, non-fiction, and biographies for American authors together. This arrangement corresponds with a major project in the eleventh-grade English class. Therefore when looking for Faulkner or Morrison, the criticism, biographies, and the original works are all in one place rather than visiting three or four areas of the library. Consequently, this arrangement saves time, steps, and encourages independent use.

What are some tools that will make things more efficient?

Our school has a mission statement that, for years, consultants have urged us to update. However, we continue with the original “ideal” that is an 1875 quote from the founder.

“to turn out young people who are tireless workers and who know how to work effectively; who are accurate scholars, who know the finer points of morals and practice them in their daily living; who are always courteous.”

Webb School Library website

In the library, we have taken this mission to heart. The concept of knowing how to work effectively in our minds corresponds with the fourth law of library science. We communicate with students and teachers about tools and apps that can save time. Think about how many clicks on your website patrons must navigate to find the library catalog, the most popular database, or the audiobook app. This summer, we redesigned our website with our readers in mind. The buttons are large and work very well on a smartphone. I used the Canva app to make the buttons and created our homepage with LibGuides. Students love the new design and find it easy to use.

How should we spend our time?

Overwork and busyness are a problem in all kinds of workplaces. Alex Soojung-Kim Pang, author of Rest: Why You Get More Done When You Work Less, asserts that he sees “our respect for overwork as a form of intellectual laziness.” Additionally, Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson, the authors of It Doesn’t Have to Be Crazy at Work, ask, “How did working 70-hour weeks become a point of pride and not a cause for concern?”

Evidence is strong for slowing down sometimes. Steven Bell writes about taking the time to contemplate essential decisions in the post “Good Leaders Slow Down for Better Decisions.” And Adam Grant asks, “Can Slowing Down Help You Be More Creative?” in his 2016 TED Talk. Some days the life of a school librarian can be hectic, and the mere thought of slowing down is a far-fetched dream.

Can you spare a week to think?

More and more Americans are on call 24/7. Instead of using technology to save time, workers are asked to be continuously connected to work, never getting time for rest and reflection. Perhaps one of the most productive humans on the planet believes we should take time away to think. In the 2019 Netflix limited series “Inside Bill’s Brain, Bill Gates describes his twice-annual Think Week.

Start now to plan for the breaks, especially the summer break. A summer “think week” is a perfect idea for K-12 educators. Make a list of the things you would like to change or the problems you hope to solve. I am making a “plan” for my Think  Week. I am making a list of things I want to read or see that will help me grow. My list will include not only books, movies, and papers, but also museums, galleries, co-working spaces, and other libraries.

If a week away seems impossible, just think if they can spare Bill Gates for a week maybe they can give me a week.


Author: Hannah Byrd Little

I’m a dedicated Library Director at The Webb School of Bell Buckle, leveraging my background in higher education libraries to guide students through the crucial transition from school to college and beyond.

I am honored to have served as the AASL Chair for the Independent School Section in 2023 and am excited to begin my upcoming role as Director-At-Large for the American Association of School Librarians (AASL) later this year, following my previous experience as a Member Guide in the AASL Emerging Leaders program. These appointments reflect my commitment to advancing library education and professional development on a national scale.

With experience in state-level leadership through the Tennessee Association of School Librarians (TASL), including serving as TASL President in 2012, I bring a wealth of knowledge to my role. My educational background includes certifications as a Library Information Specialist for PreK-12th grade, a Bachelor of Science in Communications (Advertising & Public Relations), a Bachelor of Science in Liberal Studies (Education & Information Systems), and a Master’s in Library and Information Science.

Categories: Advocacy/Leadership, Blog Topics, Collection Development, Community/Teacher Collaboration, Student Engagement/ Teaching Models, Technology

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