August 12th is being celebrated as National Librarian’s Day in India, in remembrance of Dr S R Ranganathan (1892-1972), who had spearheaded library development in India. Ranganathan came from a moderate background in British-ruled India. He was born in the small town of Shiyali (now known as Sirkazhi), in the state of Tamil Nadu in southern India.
Ranganathan began his professional life as a mathematician, earning his B.A. and M.A. degrees in mathematics from Madras Christian College in his home province. He then went on to get a teaching license. His lifelong goal was to teach mathematics, and he was successively a member of the mathematics faculties at universities in Mangalore, Coimbatore and Madras (all within the span of five years). As a mathematics professor, he published a handful of papers, mostly on the history of mathematics. His career as an educator was somewhat hindered by a handicap of stammering (a difficulty Ranganathan gradually overcame in his professional life). The Government of India awarded Padmashri to Dr. S.R. Ranganathan for valuable contributions to Library Science.
Ranganathan married when he was fifteen years old in 1907. Rukmini was his wife’s name. She was very devoted to Ranganathan and an able house keeper. But she died in an accident on 13 November 1928 at the Parthasarathy Koil Tank, Triplicane, Madras where she had gone for a bath. The couple had no children. Ranganathan married again in 1929 to Sarada in December 1929; she was also devoted to Ranganathan and helped him to work ceaselessly for the cause of the library profession. She even persuaded him to donate large sums of money for the Chair of Library Science in Madras University and to the Endowment. She died at the age of 78 years on 30 July 1985 in Bangalore. Ranganathan was blessed with only one son, Shri R. Yogeswar, born in 1932. He is an Engineer by profession and is an international consultant on machine tool design and development. Ranganathan had a simple taste for food. He would not unnecessarily waste money and energy. He was sympathetic to good people; encouraged intelligent students and guided them towards better goal and achievements.
Ranganathan began his career as a mathematician and became a librarian in 1924 at the University of Madras. He attended the University College of London from 1924 to 1925 in order to prepare for his work at the University of Madras. During his time in London, Ranganathan visited public libraries, as well as college libraries, across Great Britain. The observations and studies Ranganathan made during his stay in Great Britain helped him to focus on subjects such as Cataloguing, Classification and Reference services. He appreciated the potential of libraries for helping societies to grow and flourish. Ranganathan focused his research on library services when he returned to India and developed his Five Laws of Library Science;
1. Books are for use
2. Every reader must have his/her book
3. Every book, its reader
4. Save the time of the reader
5. A library is a growing organism
This changed the role of public and private libraries, as well as those in colleges and universities throughout the world. Ranganathan saw libraries as places of services and librarians as both scholars and teachers. He was aware of the need for India and other countries to have literate populations and this must have been a significant influence in his lifelong focus on library services.
In addition to his work on library service, Ranganathan made considerable contributions to the development of the Colon Classification system and the techniques of chain indexing for subject-index entries. Both these techniques have had significant influence and impact on library systems throughout the world and continue to have the impact as libraries grow and change in the modern electronic environment.
We the Library Professionals pay our homage & tribute to this illustrious GURU on Librarian’s Day.
(The writers work at the Knowledge Centre, IIM Shillong)