S R Ranganathan, Colon Classification

I am avid radio listener. I am generally hooked on the state run(Prasar Bharati) radio channels under All India Radio, in city of Pune. It provides, besides entertainment, many informative programs, which surprise me again and again. This week, it ran a short program on life of S R Ranganathan who was pioneer of library and information science in India. The occasion was that his 125th birth anniversary year was to start on Aug 12. After listening this program, I went down the memory lane, about my encounter with his book on colon classification.

This was in the year 2007. I was working at Saba Software, Human Capital Development and Management(HCDM) software company. I was handling project related localization(L10N) and internationalization(I18N) of their software. This project gave me world exposure to world of languages, one my favorite subjects, further, from technical perspective. We happened to get a consultant from Canada, Steven Forth, travel to Pune to work with me to define strategy on L10N and I18N. During discussions with him, I came across words such as taxonomy and ontology which are related to categorization and classification. Incidentally, around the same time, due to my association with Indology course, and subsequent exploration in Indian philosophical systems, particularly, Nyaya and Vaisesika Darshan(also called Indian Logic), I had encountered similar terminologies.

Steven Forth, being avid reader himself, ventured into Pune city for shopping for books. I accompanied him and we went to then landmark Maney’s book stall(which is now closed). Among other books, he also bought S R Ranganathan’s book titled Colon Classification. During my discussions with him about that book, I was surprised to know about this Indian mathematician and information scientist, who has done such a pioneering work, of which, I was completely unaware of it. All of his work, was achieved way back in 1950s and even earlier. I am sure many of us are not aware of it. Subsequently, I also bought that book.  He is considered as father of library science in India, also rest of the world. His birthday(Aug 12) is observed as National Library Day in India. Subsequently, I learnt that his thoughts around classification came from concepts of classification and world view of Nyaya and Vaisesika Darshan. He also was instrumental formulating five laws of library science which are:

Law#1: Books are for use.
Law#2: Every reader his / her book.
Law#3: Every book its reader.
Law#4: Save the time of the reader.
Law#5: The library is a growing organism.

I am particularly fascinated by his thinking on information classification. I am still exploring this field. I am sure many of these concepts are useful in this age of big data analytics. His information retrieval concepts might be relevant for digital age of today where there is explosion of data. They all apply principles of information science. I intend to write a series of blogs here on his work subsequently. Today I wanted to introduce about this lesser known personality(outside small circle of library science fraternity) from India and his pioneering work on the occasion of his 125th birthday.


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