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Shiyali Ramamrita Ranganathan (S.R Ranganathan) Father of Library and Information Science in India: “National Library Librarians’ Day” (On 12th of August)

Shiyali Ramamrita Ranganathan (S.R Ranganathan) is the father of Library and Information Science in India. He was a great Mathematician and Librarian. His birthday on 12th of August is observed as “National Library/Librarians’ Day” in India every year. He was a former librarian of Madras University Library. He wrote many books on library science. He was awarded Padmashree in 1957.

1. Oral System of Vedic Age Spiritual Relationship Of Guru-Sisya

During the earlier Vedic period, there was no durable medium of keeping records of knowledge. Knowledge was orally imparted by the guru to his disciples and was then again passed down to the next generation in the same way. The tradition of the spiritual relationship between guru, the teacher, with shishya, the disciple, is what defines the living and learning relationship forged between them. The word guru is derived from the Sanskrit ‘gu’ meaning ‘dark’ and ‘ru’ meaning ‘light’. Thus the meaning of the word guru can be described as the teacher who eliminates ignorance and directs his disciples to knowledge and wisdom. It is through this relationship of guru-shishya, knowledge is transmitted and preserved down the generations.

With the advent of Buddhism, knowledge came to be imparted through writings and preserved through numerous forms of records. This slowly gave rise to the institution of libraries.

 2. Palm Leaf Manuscript: The Oldest Medium of Writing

One of the oldest mediums of writing in India was the palm leaf manuscript. The palm leaves were obtained from palm trees which grow abundantly in tropical coastal areas. The leaves were cooked and dried to get them flexible and light in color. The earliest manuscripts were of this type where writings were inscribed on the leaves. Palm leaves were preferred because of their durability and flexibility and are still used today in one or the other form.

3. Evolution of Writing Mediums

Books, as we know today, was very much different than what it was in those early times. Earlier it used to be clay or wooden tablets, scrolls, and sheets of papyrus. Then came the hand-bound, expensive, and elaborate manuscripts, known as codices appeared followed by mass-printed tomes prevalent today.

4. The Library of Assurbanipal

One of the ancient and greatest libraries is the library of Ashurbanipal in Nineveh, Assyria (now in Iraq). It was built by the Assyrian king Ashurbanipal in the 7th century BC. A huge collection of clay tablets written in various languages was found after its archeological discovery.

5. The University Of Taxila and Nalanda.

The University of Taxila (now in Pakistan) is considered to be the world’s first university and center for learning. It was established during the Gandhara-Mauyrian Empire in the 700 BC. Scholars from Asia and various parts of the world came there for the acquisition of knowledge. It was famous for studies of medicine, science, literature, philosophy, Hinduism, etc. The university had an excellent library system. The university was destroyed during the Hunas invasion around the 5th century BC.

Nalanda University was one of the earliest universities in the world founded in the fifth century AD by the Gupta Dynasty and was the most famous university of that time.  It was also known as Dharma Gunj or the “Mountain Of Truth”. It was also the center of philosophy, Hindu, and Buddhist studies. The most talked-about and impressive building in the lost history of Nalanda University is its library and many students came from Greece, Persia, and Tibet for studies. The university was destroyed and burned during the invasion by the Muslim ruler Bakhtiyar Khilji around 11th century AD and many references noted that the library burnt for complete three months.

6. Ruler Ashoka: Nalanda, Vallabh, Odantapuri, and Vikramsila

Ashoka, the celebrated and prominent ruler of the Indian subcontinent gave a great stimulus to the study of higher learning and Buddhism in the 3rd century BC. Due to his impetus, many institutions and monasteries of Nalanda, Vallabh, Odantapuri, and Vikramshila became its important centres. It was the golden period during which huge advances were made in the field of science, mathematics, and astronomy.

7. Paper, Modern Library and Librarians

The Han Dynasty (206 BCE–220 CE) in China made significant scientific advancements such as the invention of paper. The libraries established by the Han Dynasty created the first Library Classification and Catalog System. As the world became technologically advanced so was the processing quality of the paper. In the modern world, all documentation and records are maintained in sheets of paper called pages bundled into what we call books and journals. This became the most sustainable medium for the preservation of information and knowledge.

8. Types of Libraries

Academic Libraries: These provides learning materials for educational purposes for students and teachers in schools, colleges, and universities.

Public Libraries: These essentially provide open-source information catering to the needs and interests of the public, young and old.

National Libraries: These libraries house valuable, significant, and original documents that cannot be directly thrown open to the public and are restricted to the access of government officials and selective citizens only.

Special Libraries: These libraries keep books and documents particular to certain types of information such as science, research, governance, politics targeting a specific group of people and purpose.

9. Digital Libraries

The beginning of the 21st century saw the emergence of the internet, where information is radically digitalized for access from every corner of the world. While the digital library is over the web, books remain the man’s best friend in their physical form. Hence, the continued role of librarians is as important as the library.


Written By

Paramita Kundu


Adamas World School