Homage to S. R. Ranganathan a Great Seer on 124th Birth Anniversary (1892-2016): Remembering his contributions!



Source of Image: http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-in-school/remembering-the-father-of-library-sciences-in-india/article5013358.ece



Dr Achala Munigal

Asst. Prof. (LIS)/Asst. Librarian

NERTU, Osmania University,

Hyderabad, Telangana State




Homage to the great seer of Library and Information Sciences – Padmashri Shiyali Ramamrita Ranganathan (12 August 1892 – 27 September 1972) who is the doyen of library movement in India and popularly known as Father of Indian Library Science for his immense unparalleled contributions to field.   Library professionals celebrate SRR birth anniversary on any of the days falling between 9-12 August every year. Various events, meetings, Seminars, Conferences, Workshops, Symposia etc. are held to commemorate this day and remember his contributions to librarianship.



Shiyali Ramamrita Ranganathan (SRR) was first child of father N. Ramamrita Ayyar and mother Seethalakshmi Ammal; born on 9th August 1892 in a small town called Shiyali (currently known as Sirkazhi) in Tanjavoor (currently Nagapattinam) district of erstwhile Madras Presidency (currently Tamil Nadu) in Southern India. But the official records display his birthdate as 12th August – on basis of which National Librarians Day is celebrated every year.


SRR’s ‘Aksharabyasam’ – a ceremony held by Hindu families as first step in education was conducted in 1897. He attended the Sabhanayaka Mudaliar’s Hindu High School at Shiyali and passed Matriculation examination in 1908/09 after which he joined Madras Christian College for intermediate 1909-10. He completed B.A. in year 1913 and M.A. in Mathematics in 1916. After education, he wanted to be a teacher in mathematics so took teaching technique course from 1916-17 in Professional Education, Teachers’ College, Saidapet, Madras and later L.T. degree in year 1917.



After education was completed SRR was appointed to the Subordinate Education Service in 1917 and worked as Assistant Lecturer in the Government College in Mangalore and later at Coimbatore till where he taught Physics and Mathematics. In 1921, he joined the Presidency College, Madras as Assistant Professor of Mathematics where he taught Algebra, Trigonometry and Statistics. He enjoyed teaching and was a popular teacher undertaking a lot of activities during his time.


In 1923 a position of librarian was created in Madras University and applications were called for the post. One of SRR’s friend persuaded him to apply for it which SRR did so, albeit a little reluctantly. There were 900 applicants but unfortunately for SRR none met the research requirements of committee other than him. In January 1924 he was appointed as the first librarian of Madras University. He was reluctant to take on an administrative position as he loved teaching and within a week was back pleading Principal for his old teaching job. But the Principal pacified him by promising to take him back if he felt the same way after his return from England as recounted in “A librarian looks back” published in ‘Herald of Library Science’ in 1963.


He had a strong work ethic and never let his disinterest come in way of work. He left for England in 1924 for 9 months on study-cum-observation tour where he met and trained as apprentice with W.C. Berwick Sayers, Chief Librarian of Croydon Public Library and completed Honors Certificate in School of Librarianship, University College of London. During his time in London he came across a toy erector set Meccano at Selfridges departmental store in London which inspired him to draft the Colon Classification where various elements could be combined to meet specific needs which he applied in giving classification number using PMEST combination. On the tour he visited over a hundred libraries which made a lasting impression on his mind and changed his outlook toward libraries and from then on he was like a man on a mission. He returned back to India with renewed interest and reorganised the university library. He took upon himself to educate people about benefits of reading and slowly evolved the library as hub of activity. He provided many services to attract users to library by adopting a holistic approach.


SRR donned many hats – that of a mathematics teacher, librarian, library science faculty, author, editor and above all a crusader who worked tirelessly for development of libraries in India as he believed it to be essential in development of the nation. Due to his efforts the library movement in South India is said to have strong roots reflecting on spread of public library network. SRR drafted a comprehensive visionary 30 year plan for the development of library system for India in 1946. Because of SSR’s interest and dedication Madras became the first state in India to enact the Madras Public Library Act in 1957.


SRR started out working as a librarian in Madras University Library between years 1924-44. In 1945 he sought voluntary retirement. But retirement was not for SRR, he was invited by the then Vice-Chancellor of Banaras Hindu University (BHU) Sir S. Radhakrishnan to develop a library system; where he worked as a Librarian and Professor of Library Science from 1945-47.  SRR received yet another invite from Vice-Chancellor of University of Delhi for teaching there from 1947-55.


He was honoured with D. Litt. (Honoris causa), Delhi University in 1948 and D. Litt. (Honoris causa) from University of Pittsburgh, USA in 1964.



SRR served in various capacities and contributed to corpus of knowledge on the National and international level.


SRR had extensive experience in developing libraries, hence was invited as an expert/consultant by many universities to suggest library development plan like University of Delhi in 1942, Nagpur University and University of Allahabad in 1946, University of Bombay in 1948, University of Mysore in 1956 and Bangalore University in 1966.


SRR worked tirelessly to promote and professionalise the library education in India. He felt the need for formal education in LIS and initiated setting up of various schools. In 1929 started the School of Librarianship of the Madras Library Association and the School of Library Science at the University of Madras in 1931. Diploma Course in Library Science in Banaras in 1945, Bachelor in Library Science in Delhi 1947 and Masters in Library Science in Delhi 1950


SRR was on various committees and played a key role in its founding and development. He founded Indian National Scientific Documentation Centre (INSDOC) in Delhi in 1950 and Documentation Research and Training Centre (DRTC), Bangalore under the auspices of the Indian Statistical Institute in 1962. He relocated to Bangalore in 1957.


SRR served as visiting/honorary lecturer/professor at various national and international universities. He contributed as visiting professor in 1948 at UNESCO International School for Public Librarianship, Manchester; in 1956 for library school(s) in United Kingdom; 1957-59 in Vikram University, Ujjain; 1958 for library school(s) in United States of America, Canada and Japan; and 1963 for library schools(s) University of Pittsburgh. He worked in DRTC as Honorary Professor till 1972.


SRR undertook many library tours in India and abroad including United Kingdom in 1925; Kerala and South Kanara in 1945; Western Europe, United Kingdom, and United States of America in 1948; Western Europe and United States of America in 1950; Ceylon 1952; United Yugoslavia and West Germany in 1956; East Germany Kingdom in 1955; United States of America, Canada, and Japan in 1957; United States of America, Poland, and Russia in 1959; France, East Germany, and West Germany in 1961; as well as Western Europe and United States of America.


Not only nationally but he made an impact internationally too with his contributions. His reputation extended beyond the borders of his country. Eugene Garfield, founder of the Institute for Scientific Information, wrote that SRR is “without question, one of the luminaries of library science” and has had a “revolutionary impact on international classification theory.” He made a lot of international connections like Donker-Duyvis, who was the then Secretary-General of International Federation for Documentation (FID).


SRR became Rapporteur-general, FID/CA (Committee on General Theory of Classification of the International Federation for Documentation) from 1951-61 and Honorary Chairman, FID/CR (Committee on Classification Research of the  International Federation for Documentation) in year 1963 and honorary president of the Second International Conference on Classification Research, held in Elsinore, Denmark in 1964. K. G. B. Bakewell called him “one of the immortals of library science.


He was tireless in his efforts and was often accused of being a workaholic or ‘Karmayogi’. It is said that he consistently worked 13-hour days, seven days a week, without taking a vacation for the entire time he worked in Madras University. Another most shared fact that reflects his dedication was that he returned to work the afternoon he got married after the ceremony. His was a lifetime of selfless commitment towards betterment of the discipline he grew fond of. Like a yogi he concentrated his whole body, spirit and mind in discipline of library and information sciences and worked towards its development.


He was a prolific writer with over 1200 research papers, 53 books and was editor for 5 periodical publications; associate editor of 1; and editorial board of 2 journals and editor of 2 books in his lifetime.


The most famous books listing include

  1. Five Laws of Library Science (1931)
  2. Colon Classification (1933)
  3. Classified Catalogue Code (1934)
  4. Library Administration (1935)
  5. Prolegomena to Library Classification (1937)
  6. Theory of the Library Catalogue (1938)
  7. Elements of Library Classification (1945)
  8. Classification and International Documentation (1948)
  9. Classification and Communication (1951)


He was the editor of two books ‘Documentation and its facets’ in 1963 and ‘Social science research and libraries’ in 1960.
He was an Editor of following journals including ‘Abigila’, Indian Library Association 1949-53; ‘Annals of Library Science’ from 1954-63; and ‘Library Science with a Slant to Documentation’ 1964-72. Associate Editor of ‘Libri’ in year 1951. He was on editorial board of ‘Modern Librarian’ 1937-47 and ‘Indian Librarian’ 1947. Conducted Memoirs, Madras Library Association 1939-1944 and American Documentation 1959


One of the most notable contributions to the field are five laws of library science proposed in 1931.

  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.


Although the above statements were self-evident; the librarians during that time did not get the full import of it due to the culture prevalent then of custodianship. But SRR laws help ensure the service orientedness of libraries. Full text of ‘Five Laws of Library Science’ is available at Hathi Trust Digital Library at http://hdl.handle.net/2027/uc1.$b99721 under Rights: Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives. 


Pauline Atherton, in reference to Five Laws of Library Science is quoted as saying, “these words stir students to think of and believe in library service above library work as their life goal.” (ALA, 1980)


Based on SRR’s Five laws various variants were proposed!

In 1998 Michael Gorman slightly tweaked SRR’s 5 laws and presented the changes in his book “Our Singular Strengths” at http://librarysciencedegree.usc.edu/resources/infographics/dr-s-r-ranganathans-five-laws-of-library-science

  1. Libraries serve humanity.
  2. Respect all forms by which knowledge is communicated.
  3. Use technology intelligently to enhance service.
  4. Protect free access to knowledge.
  5. Honor the past and create the future.


In 2004 Alireza Noruzi applied SRRs laws to the web and presented it the paper “Application of Ranganathan’s Laws to the Web” at http://www.webology.org/2004/v1n2/a8.html

  1. Web resources are for use.
  2. Every user has his or her web resource.
  3. Every web resource its user.
  4. Save the time of the user.
  5. The Web is a growing organism


In 2008 Carol Simpson applied the five laws to the media rich resources increasingly being procured in libraries and posted it on her website at http://www.carolsimpson.com/5laws.pdf

  1. Media are for use.
  2. Every patron his information.
  3. Every medium its user.
  4. Save the time of the patron.
  5. The library is a growing organism


In 2015 B Shadrach had addressed library professionals on the 123rd birth anniversary of SRR and presented his SRRs five laws rewritten so that its applicable to all people, societies, states and governments in this digital era.

  1. Knowledge is for use in ‘all’ forms
  2. Every citizen has the right to access ‘all’ knowledge
  3. Every piece of knowledge is for access by ‘all’ without discrimination of any kind
  4. Save the time of the ‘all’ knowledge seekers
  5. A library is one that evolves with time to achieve all of the above laws


I would like to present my take on SRR’s five laws in 2016 on my blog at https://achalamunigal.wordpress.com/2016/08/09/homage-to-s-r-ranganathan-a-great-seer-on-124th-birth-anniversary-1892-2016-remembering-his-contributions/ . Applying the five laws to use of social media in libraries by librarians!

  1. Social Media is for use – increasingly in libraries by librarians
  2. Every user his/her Social Tool
  3. Every Social Tool its user
  4. Save time of user by providing information he/she seeks using the social tool he/she is familiar with.
  5. Social Media is a growing organism. With various tools and apps being introduced every day. Libraries are not brick and stone anymore. They serve members and non-members alike in terms of non-traditional library services; irrespective of space and time.


There are various library professionals who remember SSR’s contribution by creating accounts on various social media like


Another important contribution of SSR is Colon Classification (CC) published in 1933 is the first faceted or analytico-synthetic library classification developed by SRR. The name CC comes from use of colon (:) to separate the facets Personality, Matter, Energy, Space, Time (PMEST). Colon Classification was designed from 1924 to 1928 and was first published in 1933 by the Madras Library Association.  6th edition was the last one to be published when he was alive and is considered most popular. SRR published a preview of the proposed 7th edition in 1969 but sadly passed away in 1972 before 7th edition was published. The work of revision of scheme was undertaken by SRR’s associates under Sarada Ranganathan Endowment for Library Science (SRELS) and revised 7th edition was brought out in 1987 but unfortunately it was not a complete edition as it had no index!


Many library professionals still support teaching CC for following reasons

  1. Because an Indian had introduced it to the world and we as librarians from India should be proud of it! We should ensure that CC is not lost in obscurity in sands of time!
  2. Jobs are available (National and International libraries following CC)
  3. Its application in the Internet era!


The following libraries had implemented CC as SRR had worked in these places – initially as University Librarian at Madras University 1924-44 followed by Banaras Hindu University where he worked as librarian and professor of Library Science 1945–47 and later again as Professor of Library Science in University of Delhi 1947–55 so had implemented CC in all those libraries.


There are almost 18 libraries in India following colon classification listed at https://achalamunigal.wordpress.com/2016/06/25/libraries-in-india-following-colon-classification/


His personal life was also exemplary and an inspiration to all. SRR got married a second time in 1929 to Sarada who and was blessed with one son, Yogeswar, born in 1932. His wife Sarada was very supportive of his dedication to his profession. He recognised her support and contributions in his life in 1956 during centenary celebrations of the University where he donated his life’s savings of one lakh rupees and endowed a Chair under his wifes name as “Sarada Ranganathan Chair of Library Science’, University of Madras. Most of his salary as National Research Professor and the royalties on his books were also donated to the Chair. In 1961 ‘Sarada Ranganathan Endowment for Library Science’, incorporated with the Treasurer for Charitable Endowments in India.


Keeping in view his various wonderful contributions the Indian government bestowed on him the honorific title ‘Rao Sahib’ in 1935. He was also awarded ‘Padmashri’ in 1957 for his invaluable contributions to Library Science.  Government of India recognised him as ‘National Research Professor in Library Science’ in 1965 when there were only four other professors in India during that time. He is known as ‘Father of Indian Library Science’ for his immense unparalleled contributions to field.


Bouquets and Brickbats

  • SRR formed the Madras Library Association in 1928 and was its founder secretary.
  • In 1931, SRR envisioned India’s first bookmobile which was a two-wheeled cart to deliver library services to rural areas. S. V. Kankasabai Pillai, a Sub Engineer was inspired by SRR and designed a bullock cart to be used as a bookmobile containing books, maps, charts, and a gramophone with records and operated within 10 mile radius for close to 10 years. In 1962 SRR proposed using a ‘librachine’ which used a motor van instead of bullock cart; having a professional librarian and circulation librarian to access remote areas.



Source of image: http://eduscapes.com/history/contemporary/1930.htm)


  • He founded ILA in 1933 and was its president till 1953 and enrolled himself as the first life member of ILA
  • Sir Maurice Gwyer, Vice-Chancellor of University of Delhi who described SRR as “A Prince among librarians
  • Honorary Fellow, Virginia Bibliographic Society in 1951.
  • Was Patron, Delhi Library Association 1954.
  • In 1956 was Honorary Member, Indian Association of Special Libraries and Information Centers
  • He was bestowed with 1957 Padmashree, Government of India
  • He was engaged in research and writing in Zürich from 1954-57
  • 1957 Honorary Vice-President, Library Association (London) and Honorary Fellow, International Federation for Documentation
  • 1962 Founder-Patron, Mysore Library Association, Bangalore
  • In honour of his 71st birthday, his colleagues dedicated a 2 volume Festschrift published by Asia Publishing House, Bombay. Volume 1: Kaula, P. N., Library Science Today, 1966 and Volume 2: Das Gupta, A. K., Essay in Personal Bibliography, 1967.
  • He was the Chairman of Documentation (Sectional) Committee of the Indian Standards Institution, New Delhi from 1947-66.
  • In 1967 got Honorary Fellow from Indian Standards Institution (ISI)
  • In 1970, he received the Margaret Mann Citation in Cataloging and Classification from the American Library Association (ALA).
  • In 1971 got Grand Knight of Peace from Mark Twain Society, USA
  • In 1976, FID established the Ranganathan award in his memory for outstanding contribution in the field of classification
  • The Philately division, Department of Post, Government of India, released a Postal Stamp in SRR honour at the Official Opening of IFLA General Conference on 30 August 1992.



Source of image: http://www.stampsathi.in/php/public/stamps-gallery.php?page=171


Everything was not hunky dory all the time in SRRs life. It is said that SSR faced a lot of hardships and unfortunate events.

  • It is said that SRR was hindered few health issues and also by the handicap of stammering which he gradually overcame.
  • His father passed away when he was only 6 years old.
  • His wife Rukmini died in a freak accident in 1928 with whom he had got married when he was barely 15 years old in 1907.
  • He suffered persecution for many years at the hands of Madras university’s administration. SRR retired from his position early at age of 54 years due to conflicts arising with a new university vice-chancellor and submitted resignation
  • He had a brief bout with depression after leaving Madras University before taking up position at BHU.
  • It was embarrassing for SRR to realise after he became the President of ILA that President had no powers except preside over the general body meeting once in two years at EC meeting held in Patna in 1946 and soon an amendment to the constitution was made where functions of the President were clearly laid-down giving custodianship of full control over the affairs of the Association and adopted in 1949 at the Nagpur Conference.
  • In the final years of his life, SRR succumbed to ill health, and confined to bed leading to his death due to complications frombronchitis on 27 September 1972.


There is much to be learned from him. Even though he was from a small town and hindered with hardships he never let it reflect on work; but he went on to influence the world. The tyros and neophytes in our discipline have much to learn from his simple living and high thinking approach to life in general and library science in particular. He was passionate about his work and mentored and encouraged intelligent students in their endeavours. He created an atmosphere of learning similar to a Gurukula where new ideas were generated with discussions.


Librarians of today have vague awareness of this great personality. We only remember him every August when we pay floral tributes as a token of our respect. But we need to understand that Librarianship is at this stage only because of efforts of SRR and many more such luminaries of our profession. Before SRR, libraries were only repositories and librarians were untrained custodians. It was SRR who gave direction and propelled Indian librarianship into the twentieth century and his views on libraries and librarianship are significant and relevant even today .


There are numerous quotes listed at http://www.isibang.ac.in/~library/portal/Pages/srrm.htm


The best way to pay homage to SRR is to take the torch forward by establishing benchmarking in librarianship and teaching methods; standardised policy and taking part in active decision making for libraries by lobbying in government, implementing Public Library Act for every State in India, publish good quality research books, start well-equipped libraries in schools and ensuring that the world does not forget Colon Classification by ensuring its survival through its use and updation of the colon classification system with a proper index!


Jesse Shera rightly said, “That one cannot properly judge the work of S. R. Ranganathan without referencing to the totality of librarianship is a tribute to the breadth and depth of his contribution to the profession.” (ALA, 1980)


Let us all remember Dr. S R Ranganathan who is the father of LIS profession in India today and everyday.






NOTE: THIS ARTICLE WAS SIMULTANEOUSLY PUBLISHED ONLINE ON MY BLOG IN ENGLISH AT https://achalamunigal.wordpress.com/2016/08/09/homage-to-s-r-ranganathan-a-great-seer-on-124th-birth-anniversary-1892-2016-remembering-his-contributions/


Granthalaya Saraswamu” started in year 1915 is the second oldest LIS journal published in India. It was published by Andhra Desa Library Association in Telugu – a regional language of one of South Indian States undivided Andhra Pradesh (now split into Andhra Pradesh and Telangana State) by editor Sri Iyyanki Venkata Ramanaiah and  is still being published by editor Dr. Raavi Sarada under Andhra Pradesh Library Association (APLA) from Vijaywada, Andhra Pradesh. It was later renamed “Andhra Granthalayam” between years 1939 to 1941 and revived as  “Granthalaya Saraswamu”  in year 1948. ISSN 0972-8104. More Details available at http://apla.tecra.com/about.html

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11 Responses to “Homage to S. R. Ranganathan a Great Seer on 124th Birth Anniversary (1892-2016): Remembering his contributions!”

  1. Usha Says:

    Just glanced it v informative mam.
    Wish u all d best . Happy Librarians day in advance.👍💐😊

  2. Divakar Says:

    Comprehensive biographical sketch of SRR.. Hope it would ignite young minds.

  3. ramesh Says:

    Great Coverage

  4. Mohammed Akram Imtiaz Says:

    Very Informative Mam …..

  5. ABSV Prasada Rao Says:

    Very Informative and wonderful biography of SRR

  6. Dr. V.J.Suseela Says:

    Read the Telugu version in GS August 2016. It is good. After a long time read about him.

  7. Singh Says:

    Good job and dedication

  8. Sudarshan Says:

    Interesting article! I admire you, Achala, Please keep up.

  9. Video Asssets Says:

    Useful information. Fortunate me I discovered your website by chance, and I’m stunned why this twist of fate didn’t took place earlier!
    I bookmarked it.

  10. LIS Associations Elections – Demand by Members! | AchalaMunigal's Blog Says:

    […] their contributions given. Example: All LIS professionals from India and abroad already know of S R Ranganathan contributions. Ayyanki (Iyyanki) Venkata Ramanayya called Architect of Public Library Movement in […]

  11. Suggested Election Manifesto-Agenda for LIS Professionals contesting for LIS Association Elections… | AchalaMunigal's Blog Says:

    […] their contributions given. Example: All LIS professionals from India and abroad already know of S R Ranganathan contributions. Ayyanki (Iyyanki) Venkata Ramanayya called Architect of Public Library Movement in […]

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