S.R. Ranganathan (1892-1972)

S.R. Ranganathan was born on 9th August 1892 in Shiyali in Tanjavoor District of Tamil Nadu (then part of Madras Presidency). His father, Ramamrita Ayyar was a farmer who died at the age of 30, at that time Ranganathan was only six years old, after his death Ranganathan was brought up by his maternal grandfather. He completed his school education in 1909, after this he joined Madras Christian College and passed B.A in 1913 from this college with a first class, he also passed M.A in mathematics from the same college in 1916.

Ranganathan worked as Assistant Lecturer in the Government College in Mangalore and Coimbatore from 1917 to 1921. In 1921, he joined as Assistant Professor of Mathematics in Presidency College, Madras and worked their up to 1923. After this in January 1924 he was appointed as the first Librarian of Madras University. In the same year in the month of September, he left for England for 9 months of study-cum-observation tour. There he came in close contact with W.C. Berwick Sayers, Chief Librarian of Croydon Public Library and a lecturer in the University School of Librarianship, London. Under his guidance, Ranganathan visited a large number of libraries. He witnessed how the libraries there had become community reading centers. He also found how the libraries provide their service to various social classes like children, working class, women and other groups. This made a lasting impression on his mind; it considerably changed his outlook and he discovered a social mission in his mind; thus he discovered a social mission for the library profession and for himself.

After returning home in 1925, he applied all the new ideas he gained in London, within the library he initiated behind the scene work in several aspects. Here emerged the Five Laws of Library Science (1931), the Colon Classification (1933), the Classified Catalogue Code and the Principles of Library Management. He introduced open shelved system and provided open access. This gave impetus for readers to come quite often. The atmosphere throbbed with human activity and intellectual atmosphere. Ranganathan designed a functional library building near Madras Beach. All these changes did not happen abruptly but were developed in a holistic manner, inspired by his Five Laws of Library Science.

He formed Madras Library Association in 1928, and was its Founder Secretary from 1928 to 1945. Under the guidance of Madras Library Association Ranganathan started a school of library science in 1929 which was later taken over by Madras University. He single-handedly organized, classified and catalogued about 100,000 books of Banaras Hindu University Library during 1945-47, during this period he also conducted the Diploma Course in Library Science.

In 1947 he was invited to join the Delhi University as an Honorary Professor by the then Vice Chancellor of the University Sir Maurice Gwyer. Here in Delhi University he took some important decisions to institute Bachelor’s, Master’s and Doctoral Degrees in Library Science. Study Circle and Research Circle meetings were organized in the university; this step was taken for the first time in the whole of the Commonwealth. The Research Circle met every Sunday at his residence. He was also elected the President of the Indian Library Association (ILA). The association started publishing of three journals namely Annals, Bulletin, and Granthalaya (ABGILA).

In 1962, he was actively involved in founding of the Documentation Research and Training Centre, Bangalore under the guidance of the Indian Statistical Institute.

Internationally he was well famous and was the Chairman of the Classification Research Group of the International Federation for Documentation (FID) between 1950-62, when he produced 12 research reports for FID and from 1962 he was the honorary vice president of FID till 1972.

He passed on 27th September 1972. In his 80 years of life he contributed to the field of library service, science and profession, he organized a human movement whose aim and enthusiastic contribution towards the field is witnessed even today. He wrote sixty books and 2000 articles. He was and will always be remembered as a stalwart of the Library science.

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