national librarians’ day

12 AUGUST 2020

Shiyali Ramamrita Ranganathan, Father of Library and Information Science movement in India, was born on August 12th1892 to Ramamrita at Shiyali  in The Tanjur district of Madras State, in the state of Tamil Nadu in southern India (British-ruled India) Ramamrita Ayyar died (on 13 January 1898) rather suddenly after a bout of illness at the age of 30, when Ranganathan was only six years old. Ranganathan’s mother survived this loss for nearly 55 years and died at Delhi due to a fire accident at the home in January 1953. 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 December 1929 to Sarada; 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.

Early life and education

Ranganathan’s education was initiated on Vijayadasami day in October, 1897 withAksharabyasam at Ubhayavedanthapuram near Shiyali. After this, Ranganathan was admitted to a school in Shiyali, and was handed to the care of Subba Ayyar, a brother of his maternal grandfather and a primary school teacher. During his school days, Ranganathan came under the influence of two of his teachers who shaped his mind -R. Antharama Ayyar and Thiruvenkatachariar, the Sanskrit teacher. From them Ranganathan learnt about the life teachings of nayanars (Shaivaite Bhaktas) and Alwars (Vaishnavaite Bhaktas). Depth of scholarship and essence of life were ingrained in Ranganathan which kept in good stead in his later life to make decisions
Ranganathan attended the S.M. Hindu High School at Shiyali and passed Matriculation examination in 1908/1909. Ranganathan passed the examination in First Class, in spite of sickness like anaemia, piles, and stammering. In his high school career, he came under the influence of P.A. Subramanya Ayyar, a scholar on Sri Aurobindo. Ranganathan joined the junior intermediate class at the Madras Christian College in March 1909. Even in those days, there were paucity of college seats. Ranganathan was picked up for his excellent marks in all the subjects and the principal. Prof. Skinner spotted him in a crowd of students and admitted him into the course. Ranganathan passed B.A. with a first class in March/April 1913. In June, same year, he joined for the M.A. course in Mathematics with Professor Edward B. Ross as his teacher. Being a favourite student of Prof. Ross, Ranganathan had an excellent Guru-Shishya relationship.
In 1923, the University of Madras created the post of University Librarian to oversee their poorly organized collection. Among the 900 applicants for the position, none had any formal training in librarianship, and Ranganathan’s’ handful of papers satisfied the search committee’s requirement that the candidate should have a research background. His sole knowledge of librarianship came from an Encyclopædia Britannica article he read days before the interview.

Ranganathan travelled to University College London, which at that time housed the only graduate degree program in library science in Britain. At University College, he earned marks only slightly above average, but his mathematical mind latched onto the problem of classification, a subject typically taught by rote in library programs of the time. As an outsider, he focused on what he perceived to be flaws with the popular decimal classification, and began to explore new possibilities on his own.
He began drafting the system that was ultimately to become the Colon Classification while in England, and refined it as he returned home, even going so far as to reorder the ship’s library on the voyage back to India. He initially got the idea for the system from seeing a set of Meccano in a toy store in London. Ranganathan returned with great interest for libraries and librarianship and a vision of its importance for the Indian nation. He returned to and held the position of University Librarian at the University of Madras for twenty years. During that time, he helped to found the Madras Library Association in 1928, and lobbied actively for the establishment of free public libraries throughout India and for the creation of a comprehensive national library.

The first few years of Ranganathan’s tenure at Madras were years of deliberation and analysis as he addressed the problems of library administration and classification. It was during this period that he produced what have come to be known as his two greatest legacies: his five laws of library science (1931) and the colon classification system (1933).

Regarding the political climate at the time, Ranganathan took his position at the University of Madras in 1924. Gandhi had been imprisoned in 1922 and was released around the time that Ranganathan was taking that job. Ranganathan sought to institute massive changes to the library system and to write about such things as open access and education for all which essentially had the potential to enable the masses and encourage civil discourse. Although there’s no evidence that Ranganthan did any of this for political reasons, his changes to the library had the result of educating more people, making information available to all, and even aiding women and minorities in the information-seeking process.

After two decades of serving as librarian at Madras – a post he had intended to keep until his retirement, Ranganathan retired from his position after conflicts with a new university vice-chancellor became intolerable. At the age of 54, he submitted his resignation and, after a brief bout with depression, accepted a professorship in library science at Banaras Hindu University in Varanasi, his last formal academic position, in August 1945. There, he catalogued the university’s collection; by the time he left four years later, he had classified over 100,000 items personally.                                                                                                                                Ranganathan headed the Indian Library Association from 1944 to 1953, but was never a particularly adept administrator, and left amid controversy when the Delhi Public Library chose to use the Dewey Decimal Classification system instead of his own Colon Classification. He held an honorary professorship at Delhi University from 1949 to 1955 and helped build that institution’s library science programs with S. Dasgupta, a former student of his. In 1951, Ranganathan released an album on Folkways Records entitled, Readings from the Ramayana: In Sanskrit Bhagavad Gita.

Ranganathan briefly moved to Zurich, Switzerland, from 1955 to 1957, when his son married a European girl; the unorthodox relationship did not sit well with Ranganathan, although his time in Zurich allowed him to expand his contacts within the European library community, where he gained a significant following. However, he soon returned to India and settled in the city of Bangalore, where he would spend the rest of his life. While in Zurich, though, he endowed a professorship at Madras University in honour of his wife of thirty years, largely as an ironic gesture in retaliation for the persecution he suffered for many years at the hands of that university’s administration.
Ranganathan’s final major achievement was the establishment of the Documentation Research and Training Centre as a department and research centre in the Indian Statistical Institute in Bangalore in 1962, where he served as honorary director for five years. In 1965, the Indian government honoured him for his contributions to the field with a rare title of “National ResearchProfessor.”                                                                                                                                            Upon the centenary of his birth in 1992, several biographical volumes and collections of essays on Ranganathan’s influence were published in his honour. Ranganathan’s autobiography, published serially during his life, is titled “A Librarian Looks Back”.
His Contribution

  1.   Five Laws of Library science

The Five Laws of Library Science were enunciated in 1928 by the late Dr. S. R. Ranganathan, the Librarian of the University of Madras. Their first formal exposition occurred at the Provincial Educational Conference; held at Chidambaram in December that year. Dr. Ranganathan, after, his education in librarianship in the University of London, School of Librarianship in 1924 and his observation of the working of several libraries in England, had been struggling to discover whether the principles and practices that he observed could be generalised and reduced to certain cardinal principles. In other words, he was in search of some principles which could tell us what should be done: in the library field to make library organisation; management and operation efficient and universalise its services. These basic principles may also contain, in a latent form, many other practices not known now and which may surface later. The outcome of this line of thinking of ‘Ranganathan was the formal enunciation of the Five Laws of Library Science.

These laws are:

1. Books are for use

2. Every reader his/her book

3.Every book its reader

4.Save the time of the reader

5.The library is a growing organism

 Every activity relating to library services has a rationale in one or another of these laws or in all of them collectively. Also, we can examine whether there is anything left undone in a library out of those covered by the laws. The laws, therefore, constitute the philosophical basis for all library work, programs, activities and services. It is significant to note that these laws are valid and could be seen as governing every activity concerning modem information systems and services.

 When Ranganathan used the expressions “books” and “readers”, he naturally meant that books stand for knowledge and information and readers stand for users of library and information services. In modern studies on knowledge and information and all other related expressions, it must be remembered that the carriers and channels of information and knowledge have changed from print to other forms, but all the services are revolving round information and users. The dimensions of services now have expanded widely in scope but the basic philosophy of the service remains very much unchanged. Therefore, these five laws can be restated to suit modern developments in information and library systems to suit the changed contexts.

 The restated laws are:

  1. Documents/information are for use
  2. 2.Every user his/her document/ information
  3.  Every document/information its user
  4.  Save the time of the user
  5.  Documentation/information system is a growing organism

Save The Time Of The Reader,

Library Is A Growing Organism

  • Colon Classification

Ranganathan published his first major work on his new classification system ,the Colon Classification.  Its basic principles, however, require the analysis of a subject to determine its various  aspects, called facets, and the synthesis of a class number from the numbers assigned in published schedules to different facets. Thus, Colon Classification is known as an analytico -synthetic classification system. Ranganathan was the first to fully explicate facet theory, and his work has had a major impact on modern classification schemes.

  • Classified Catalogue Code

In 1934 Ranganathan published another important work, the Classified Catalogue Code. He maintained, however, that a catalogue should consist of two components.
One part should be classified by subject, reflecting the library’s classification system, with class number entries.  The other should be a dictionary catalogue, including author, title, series, and similar identifiers, as well as alphabetized subject entries. The function of a catalogue is to itemize works so they can be found by author, title, series, and so forth. It must also allow readers to review the selection of works on a given subject.

  • Chain Index

To determine subject entries for the dictionary catalogue, He devised an ingeniously Simple method called chain indexing. This method simply uses each facet of a subject, together with its immediately preceding facets, as an index entry.  Thus, all important aspects of the subject, from the most general to the most specific, are automatically covered. Chain indexing can be adapted to other classification systems as well.

Ranganathan’s contributions were acknowledged 1964, he was named honorary president of the Second International Conference on Classification Research, Held in Elsinore, Denmark.

He also received a number of other high honours.

  • In 1935 and 1957, the Indian government bestowed on him the honorific title Rao Sahib and the public service award Padmashri respectively.
  • In 1948, he received an honorary doctorate of literature from the University of Delhi.
  • In 1964, he received the same degree from the University of Pittsburgh.
  • In 1965, he was made a national research professor by the Indian government, and in 1970, he received the Margaret Mann Citation in Cataloguing and Classification of the American Library Association (ALA).
  • After his death, the FID,in 1976, established the Ranganathan award in his memory. This certificate of merit is awarded biennially for a recent outstanding contribution in the field of classification.

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