Whither Ranganathan?

We all remember Dr. Ranganathan, don't we? But we seem to be doing it at our convenience. Like one fondly takes his name when it is desirable to do so or drop it most reverentially when personal benefits are in sight.

Why else, Indian experts did not ( or could not ) do a wee bit to further the leads that Ranganathan had set for us decades back. Unfortunately, he did not live to see the miracles that the information technology revolution has brought about. His genius would have worked to adapt the Colon Classification and the Classified Catalogue Code to the new technology environment. And large libraries using these standards, could have been saved from their present situation similar to that of a gigantic python gorging a large deer_which it can neither swallow nor throw up.

The famous Five Laws remain in the text books, only to be read before one's examination. Why do librarians block or screen out well meaning users while he championed all his life the cause of universal access. Why his ardent disciples fight for splitting collections while all his life Ranganathan fervently promoted collection building (The tale of two city libraries refers).

Sycophancy is the name of the game in which only we can claim uncrowned supremacy. Study circles named after him have mushroomed, but these only add up to the prevalent noise at a higher decibel level.Amidst the tinkling coffee tumblers and tea cups, the same subject is repeatedly discussed over and over again. Of late, new institutes have begun to spring up. On one such endeavour, a state government is understood to have coughed up a hefty sum for establishing a non-descript institute managed by a person with remote attachment, if any, to the discipline. Come to think of it! Even his close followers could not muster enough courage to come out of the protective umbrella of a big establishment and set up an institute in his cherished memory. And the corpus he left behind continues to be managed in a closely guarded fasion by a group of disciples who think Ranganathan is their private property.

Idol worship is our forte. Our senior professionals take the trouble of visiting his birthplace for a scoop of earth to be treasured or immersed in holy places. Not to be left behind, a stalwart institutes a medal ( with his own name attached to the giant lest not the sishya is forgotten). An afffectionate father christened his kids Popsy and Precis as a constant reminder. A sword bearer went to the extent of changing the family name. SR's more ardent followers thought it prudent to entangle him perpetually with another eminent professional in an ideological conflict. So much so that even two decades after the death of Ranganathan, some of them did not miss the opportunity to pass slighted remarks at the other octogenarian leader of the profession in a public meeting of a professional body.

But all of them sing in chorus that the boundaries of library science knowledge have not extended even by an inch beyond where he left them. And that solutions to all library related matters could be found from the works of Ranganathan in the same vein as our religious leaders — the self professed custodians of our faiths, try to dig out solutions or explanations to all scientific and societal phenomena from our ancient scricptures. Copious materials in the form of articles, books, memoirs are written and a lot of sweet talks / speeches are made about what he was and what he wasn't. Had we only diverted this tremendous energy in doing good to the profession, we would have paid a more befitting tribute to the man who lived for the cause of the users and the profession.

To cut the soliloquy short, Ranganathan is to the Indian librarian community what Bapuji is to all of us. Alas! Ranganathan is getting lost among the millions of Indians who were born, died and invariably slipped out of the memory.

— A. Lahiri