This morning in the school assembly I learnt that August 12th in India is celebrated as Librarians’ Day. Such days and their significance appear to have got confined only to the schools in our times. Colleges, universities and institutions of higher learning transact a great deal of their daily work in and via the library. Yet, it is striking how pioneers of the field and their work are forgotten by those who come after them. The histories that reside on the fringes at times are those which determine the course of times. Library science in this country is one such history from the fringes of the society’s memory.
It is celebrated in the honour of S. R. Ranganathan, an unintentional librarian who laid the foundation of library science in India. In 1924 he became the first librarian of University of Madras. It was here that the Colon Classification, the Classified Catalogue Code and the Principles of Library Management took shape. Ranganathan’s ideas would change library science in India in the years ahead.
Library science in some ways fits the classic example of a retrogressive Indian society. Ranganathan’s time as a librarian and Presidency of Madras spawned the library movement in South India. It is this phase of extensive outreach and campaign for the cause of libraries that led to a thriving network of public libraries and reading culture among the people.
The year India gained independence and the country was undergoing serious political change, Ranganathan had joined Delhi University and was shaping up its undergraduate and graduate programs in library science. By this time, his student S. Dasgupta was a professor at Delhi University and joined him in another frenzied phase of activity in the library world. Ranganathan was elected as the president of Indian Library Association (ILA). They began conducting “study circle” and “research circle” meetings. As a part of the ILA, three journals were started – Annals, Bulletin and Granthalaya. Annals later acquired an international acclaim. The man had the foresight to draw a 30 year plan for the development of library system in India. This is remarkable even by today’s standards because there is hardly any planning done in the country for such a time frame. And library system? Least likely of all.
Back here in Bangalore, Documentation Research and Training Centre was founded by him as a part of the Indian Statistical Institute for research and training in library science. He was appointed as the National Research Professor in library science by the government of India for his contributions to the field and his extensive service. He joined the league of 4 other National Research Professors that India had – Dr C V Raman, S N Bose, P V Kane and S K Chatterjee.
It is interesting to see that the man started off his first day as a librarian with these words –
I can’t bear the solitary imprisonment day-after-day. No human being, except the staff. How different from the life in the college.
It turns out that the unpleasant beginning was to be the only time he felt that way about working as a librarian and in a library. Back at the school, we had a librarian – Usha Mukunda (Founder, Center for Learning) visiting the kids. Book reading and library orientation sessions for children of all age groups were conducted all through the day. Growing up with several libraries around and with a love for books, this was an opportunity to know more about the army of librarians who have contributed to the success and careers of several students, celebrated authors, historians and the intellectual horde.
(Information on S R Ranganathan’s contributions sourced from – Encyclopedia of Library and Information Science, Ed. by Allen Kent and others, Vol. 25, 1978, published by Marcel Dekker Inc., New York.)