Good Afternoon and Happy Librarians’ Day!
Across most countries, a national librarians’ day, or some related ‘form’ of it, is celebrated at a chosen but different time of the year. For example, in the US, it is sometime in the first two weeks of April. Furthermore, librarians’ day celebrations are often part of the national library week celebrations (In my rightly so). The concept behind these celebrations is to celebrate and salute libraries and librarians for their work and contributions. Generally, these celebrations include activities such as ‘read a book’, ‘donate a book’, and other promoting reading habits.
In India, we celebrate Librarians’ Day on the birthday of Dr.S.R.Ranganathan, the father of Library Science in India.
I believe moments like this—Librarians day or Ranganathan’s 129th birth anniversary—are moments to commemorate Ranganathan and his contributions which are, of course, legion and to contemplate.
Let me first begin with the first task – commemorate SRR and his legacy.
He was a genius, a visionary, philanthropist, and more, and he was a workaholic, his commitment and integrity …no adjective or superlative, is adequate to describe a man like Ranganathan.
Forget about emulating; they are beyond our comprehension. Ranganathan was indeed a Karmayogi.
He was a polymath—there was no domain of Library Science—whether classification or cataloguing or indexing or Library Administration or Reference Service or Documentation or what have you, he contributed immensely to its theory and practice. Mere mortals like us choose and hope to specialize in one aspect or branch of a field, but then Ranganathan was not a mere mortal. As K. G. B. Bakewell aptly called him, “one of the immortals of library science.” He immortalized Every aspect of libraries and library science. We have a saying in Kannada, “Aadu Muttada Soppilla.” There is no area of LIS which he left untouched. He contributed immensely and intellectually and proved that “Theory without practice will be a mere craft.” Moreover, being a Mathematician, he brought scientific rigor to every branch of library science. He singlehandedly raised the field of librarianship from a practice-based profession to a science. According to some estimates, he wrote over 1200 research papers and more than 50 books (53 or 55). One does not have to do a comprehensive prosopography of SRR to comprehend his contributions completely. Even an impressionist study reveals the depth and breadth of his monumental contributions. He was a scholar extraordinaire.
He was one person who demonstrated and lived up to the expression that “Theory and Practice” are two sides of the same coin. His research, development, and deployment of processes, tools, and techniques—simply every art and technique of librarianship from “lab to work” in the real world of librarianship proved the axiom that theory and practice are two faces of the same coin.
We are either librarians or teachers, or researchers. But Ranganathan was a Librarian par excellence, a teacher par excellence, a researcher par excellence, an institution builder par excellence, and as I said before, scholar extraordinaire. He was a librarian, but he did not ask for or demand the status of a teacher. He became and was a teacher of library science; he was a researcher, an institution builder, and conceived and built institutions whether Delhi University DLIS or DRTC. He was behind the founding of many associations, whether Madras Library Association, KALA, or ILA. He was the man behind library legislation in India.
As Jesse Shera said, “Ranganathan was a ‘One Man Library Movement.’” His contributions were prodigious, astronomical, or I would venture to say immeasurable.
Ranganathan was a man who could be described as (to paraphrase Shakespeare who coined the expression to describe Julius Caesar) he doth bestrode the world of libraries and library science Like a Colossus. Please do not get me wrong; I would like to continue to paraphrase Shakespeare and say we, the proud inheritors of this legacy, just walked under his huge legs and peep about.
It is perhaps time to come to the second part of the celebration of a day like this—contemplation. Do we (the Indian LIS professionals) really live up to the legacy that we inherited? My answer is “no.” I know I am hurting the sentiments of many and probably putting myself in the line of fire (but I will state it bluntly but gently): We squandered the legacy of SRR. SRR strode the field of LIS not just in India but internationally like a Colossus. The world of library science adulated, listened, followed, and revered him. We had a great opportunity there. Unfortunately, we did not build and continue that legacy. The two generations since SRR ( in my humble opinion) just walked under his shadow.
But I end my contemplation with hope and optimism—I earnestly hope that the future generation of LIS professionals will not just be mere custodians of SRR’s legacy but also add to it, grow it, and strengthen it.
With this hope, we organized the SRR Quiz program this year to commemorate and inspire our youth to carry, continue, and pay forward the legacy. I am delighted to state that nearly 700 youngsters across the nation—from Kashmir to Kerala, participated and paid their tribute to the father of library science. May this tribe increase!
Let me end by quoting Albert Einstein’s famous words on Gandhi: “Generations to come will scarce believe that such a one as this ever in flesh and blood walked upon this earth.” These words apply to the father of our nation and the father of library science.
Let us not just deify Ranganathan and stop at garlanding his photo on Librarians’ Day; let us contemplate and come up with ideas to pay forward his immense legacy. How do we ensure the ideals of SRR are not just remembered by future generations but enthuse them to add to it?
While I use this occasion to apologize for what is not done by my and the previous generation of Indian LIS professionals, but hope that the future generations be the torch bearers and not just custodians.