Tribute to a great Librarian

Dr. Tarseem Singh In India, just three days before we celebrate Independence Day, Indians celebrate Librarian Day throughout the country on the 12th of August every year to commemorate the birth anniversary of Dr. Shayali Ramamrita Ranganathan, who is known as the Father of Library Science in India. Dr. Ranaganathan was born on August 9th, 1892 in Shayali (a place in Thiruvarur District in Tamil Naidu) to Ramamrita Ayyar and Seethalakshmi. Although he stated in one of his books that he was born on August 9th, 1892, the date August 12th, which was mentioned in his official documents, was ultimately chosen to be celebrated as Librarian Day. Dr. S. R. Ranganathan got his early education from Hindu High School in Shyali. He went to Madras Christian College and earned a B.A. degree in 2013 and an M.A. degree in Mathematics in 2016. After completing his education, he was appointed as a faculty member of Mathematics at Government College, Mangalore, in 1917, where he served for two years. From there he was transferred to Government College, Coimbatore, and served there in the year 1920. From 1921-1923 he taught Mathematics at Presidency College, University of Madras. But later on, destiny got him appointed as Librarian at Madras University Library, and there he took charge of Librarianship on January 4th, 1924. He appears hesitant to continue as a library professional during his early days as a librarian at Madras University.Some feel that it was due to the fact that he did not have any formal education in library science and his knowledge of the subject was confined only to the articles he read in the Encyclopaedia Britannica a day before his interview as a librarian. After his appointment as librarian, he went to University College, London to get formal training and education in library science. It was during his days at University College, London that Dr. Ranganathan got interested in the field of librarianship and never looked back and devoted the rest of his life to the profession of librarianship. He learnt the nitty-gritty of library science and took keen interest in subjects like library classification and cataloguing of documents. Being a mathematician and an inquisitive mind, he learnt the principles and practises of the subject in a very short time and became successful in finding some of the flaws in the library classification scheme of Dewey Decimal Classification, and started thinking of a new classification scheme. In a very short time, he got the basics of the subject and started contributing his knowledge for the betterment of the subject. The major work which made Dr. Ranganathan a world-class author and innovator is his promulgation of the Five Laws of Library Science and Colon Classification. In 1931, he published five laws of library science. These laws resulted in idealistic statements that govern library science philosophy: First law – books are for use. Second law – Every reader his/her book. Third law – Every book its reader. Fourth Law – Save the time of user. Fifth Law – A library is a growing organism. The other marvellous work by Dr. Ranganathan was the Colon Classification Scheme (1933). The beauty of the colon classification is that it provides an analytico-synthetic system of assigning class numbers to the documents. Due to its capability of providing a unique class number to each and every document, this scheme was a special one, and thus it was implemented in many research libraries. Under this scheme, the document is divided into facets/divisions, i.e., personality, matter, energy, space, and time (P.M.E.S.T). In addition to these, Dr. Ranganathan has contributed to almost every aspect of librarianship and written many articles and books on different categories. The major works by Dr. Ranganathan are: Classified Catalogue Code (1934), Prolegomena to Library Classification (1937), Elements of Library Classification (1945), Headings and Canon (1955), Classification and Communication (1951). In addition to these, he also wrote treatises on library administration and library manuals, book selection, etc. For almost two decades, i.e., from 1924 to 1944, the University Library remained as his karam bhumi where he experimented, developed and implemented his ideas for the betterment of library services. In 1929, he started a summer school at the University of Madras to impart education in library and information science. This school later led to the introduction of a certificate course. Although Dr. Ranaganathan resigned from the librarianship of Madras University in 1944, he contributed Rs. 1 lac from his own savings to establish a teaching department in Library and Information Science at Madras University in 1957. Not only this, he also helped the university in establishing the Sarada Ranganathan Chair in Library Science in 1959, which was the first Professorship in Library Science in the British Commonwealth. After his resignation from the post of librarian at the University of Madras, he accepted the assignment of librarianship and professor of Library Science at the Hindu University of Varanasi (Banaras) and worked there from 1945 to 1947. From 1947 to 1954, he worked as a professor of Library Science at the University of Delhi and helped the university in starting a department of Library Science. In addition to these, Dr. Ranganathan also helped and advised the Government of India in establishing state-of-the-art institutes like the Indian National Scientific Documentation Centre (INSDOC) in 1952 and the Documentation Research and Training Centre (DRTC) in 1962. He was a founding member and chairman of the first Advisory Committee of INSDOC. He established the DRTC centre at the Indian Statistical Institute at Bangalore and remained associated with it for the rest of his life. In addition to his writings and establishing institutes of world repute, he engaged himself in a number of professional activities and remained a member of some of the most well-known library associations in India and abroad. He founded the Madras Library Association and worked as its Founder Secretary from 1928 to 1945, and he was president of the Indian Library Association from 1944 to 1953. He was member of International Library Committee of the World Association for Adult Education. He remained an honorary vice president for life of the Library Association of Great Britain. Keeping in view the contributions of Dr. Ranganathan in Library Science, the Government of India and other organisations conferred several academic and civil awards on him. The Government of India awarded Padamshri in 1957, and in 1965, he was honoured with the title of National Research Professor in Library Science. In 1992, the centennial year of his birth, the Govt. of India released a postal stamp on his name. In addition to these, he was also honoured with various honorary degrees and titles from time to time. The acumen of Dr. Ranganathan can be gauged from the statement that ‘What Newton was to Physics, Dr. Ranganathan was to Library Science.’ He authored more than 50 works, over 2000 research papers, and scores of library development plans and library legislation documents. He passed away on September 27th, 1972, after a long illness.

(The author is Assistant Librarian and President of Jammu University Library Officers Association, JULOA)