edited by Birger Hjørland and Claudio Gnoli


Shiyali Ramamrita Ranganathan

by K. S. Raghavan

Table of contents:
1. Birth, education and family
2. Career as teacher of mathematics
3. Madras University Library
4. Normative principles
5. Ranganathan and librarianship
    5.1 Library Associations and Public Library Movement
    5.2 Information Support for Industry and R&D
    5.3 Ranganathan as a global player
    5.4 Education for librarianship & information work
    5.5 Work on standards
    5.6 Channels of communication
    5.7 Sarada Ranganathan Endowment for Library Science
    5.8 Honours and awards
6. Ranganathan’s style of writing
7. Publications and impact
8. Ranganathan’s contributions to knowledge organization
    8.1 General theory of classification: 8.1.1 Canons and principles; 8.1.2 Fundamental categories; 8.1.3 Verbal plane; 8.1.4 Notational plane; 8.1.5 Basic subjects & their sequence
    8.2 Critical evaluation of Ranganathan’s ideas: 8.2.1: The philosophical basis of Ranganathan's schema and categories; 8.2.2 The CRG, Western world and Ranganathan; 8.2.3 Other relevant comments
    8.3 Ranganathan and cataloguing
9. Concluding remarks
Ranganathan’s works: a select bibliography
Secondary sources and references

After a brief description giving family background of S. R. Ranganathan, the article goes on to explain and examine Ranganathan’s professional life as a librarian and library scientist. Ranganathan’s contributions to different facets of library science with focus on knowledge organization are examined. References are made to Ranganathan’s initiatives in the international arena to carry forward classification research and his impact on CRG’s activities. The last section seeks to portray Ranganathan’s ideas as seen by the critics followed by some ideas on the future. Ranganathan continued to be active till he passed away at the ripe age of 80.

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1. Birth, education and family

Shiyali Ramamrita Ranganathan was born on 9th August 1892 to Mr. Ramamrita Iyer and Mrs. Sitalakshmi at Ubhayavedantapuram, a small hamlet in the Tanjore District of Madras Presidency (present day Tamil Nadu). Ranganathan lost his father in 1898 when he was only 6 years old. He had his school education in the town of Shiyali (Shirgazhi), his mother’s native town, and continued there till he completed his matriculation in 1909. Ranganathan spent his childhood and school days as member of an orthodox South Indian Brahmin family. Even when he was still studying, at the age of 15, he was married to Rukmani (aged 11 years). Ranganathan moved to Madras (now, Chennai) for higher education. It was only after moving to Madras that he was exposed to a more cosmopolitan environment. After completing matriculation, Ranganathan joined the Madras Christian College and majored in mathematics obtaining his B.A. in 1913 and M.A. degree in 1916; Ranganathan also obtained a licentiate in teaching (LT) from the Teachers’ College in Madras in 1917.

Figure 1: S.R. Ranganathan

Ranganathan’s first wife, Rukmani died in a drowning accident in a temple tank in Madras in 1928. Ranganathan married Sarada in 1929. Their son R. Yogeshwar became an engineer, married a European and eventually migrated to Luxembourg [1]. Ranganathan (who died in Bangalore on 27 September 1972) has two grandsons and a granddaughter and quite a few greatgrandchildren — all of whom live in Europe.

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2. Career as teacher of mathematics

Ranganathan started his career as an assistant lecturer in mathematics at the Government College in Mangalore. He also taught at the Government College, Coimbatore before moving to Madras in 1921 as an assistant professor of mathematics at the Presidency College. As a teacher of mathematics, he published a few papers, mostly on history of mathematics. Ranganathan was also secretary of the Mathematics and Science Section of the Madras Teachers’ Guild. He was also a member of a team of Indian teaching staff seeking higher emoluments as Indian teachers were paid just about 10% of what an Englishman holding the same position was paid in India at that time. The negotiations were unsuccessful as the government flatly refused the request for a higher emolument for Indian teachers; that probably was Ranganathan’s first taste of politics in state run institutions. One of his colleagues advised him to apply for the position of Madras University librarian which had been notified.

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3. Madras University Library

In 1923, the University of Madras created the position of university librarian and had invited applications for the post. Ranganathan was persuaded by some of his colleagues to apply for the position as it carried much higher emoluments than that of an assistant professor. Ranganathan was selected for the position from among the many applicants and joined as University Librarian in January 1924. One of the conditions of appointment was that the selected candidate should go to England for training in librarianship and library work. His initial reaction to this change — from being a teacher of mathematics, a subject he loved, to becoming a librarian, which in those days was more in the nature of a storekeeper — was one of frustration. However, owing to persuasion by his friends he stayed on in that position till he was sent to London to study modern practices in library management. In September 1924, Ranganathan traveled to England and joined the University College, London. As a student at the University College, Ranganathan came under the influence of Berwick Sayers who was teaching library classification. The nine months in England made a huge difference for Ranganathan. He realized the importance of libraries as social institutions especially for a country like India. Ranganathan returned to India in July 1925 and assumed office as Librarian of the University of Madras and initiated the process of transforming the library. He began with stock-taking and initiated steps to make the items available known to end users by classifying and cataloguing the items. He found that everything about the library – the building where it was housed, the administrative systems in place, the library budget, etc. — to be unsatisfactory. Ranganathan came up with an action plan and implemented as many of these as he could:

  • keeping the library open from 8 AM to 8 PM on all days of the year;
  • opening the library to undergraduate students also;
  • providing intensive user assistance; interestingly, within a few years after he assumed office as librarian, Ranganathan introduced a service tailored to individual needs (PARS, personalized assistance to research scholars?) for select users based on user interest profiles; this was at least a couple of decades before H.P. Luhn came up with his ‘selective dissemination of information’!
  • diversifying the stock based on user community’s requirements;
  • organizing programmes to make the library visible and publicize its resources and services (e.g., every week, Sunday editions of the city newspapers would carry the list of new books added to the library; he would address different forums; he wrote articles in magazines and newspapers about the library, etc.);
  • introducing a ‘home delivery of books’ service for a small fee;
  • creating the right kind of ambience for users.

It was more than a decade later that he could move the library to its present premises on the Marina Beach. Some features of the building and its furniture require special mention to have an idea of the keen eye Ranganathan had for details nearly one hundred years ago, when the university library building was being planned:

  • Considering that Madras is a coastal city and that the library was located on the beach road, the book shelves were all made of wood with racks whose height was adjustable. Ranganathan designed and got exquisite book shelves made for housing reference sources, which can be seen in the main reading hall of the library even today. The company that made these furniture, Curzon Co., later came to specialize in library furniture, thanks to Ranganathan’s influence;
  • the windows in the stack area of the library were so designed as to make it possible to open and close windows on all four stack floors from the ground floor using a simple mechanical device;
  • a lift to carry books to upper stack floors was provided;
  • the chairs in the reading hall and the periodicals hall were specially designed keeping in mind users’ comfort;
  • the display tables in the periodicals hall were assembled inside the hall and fixed to the floor (it appears that there was a large military presence in Madras at that time which was just before the Second World War and some of the British military officers would use the periodicals hall as a ball room in the evening as it faced the Marina beach and the ocean; India was a British colony and Ranganathan was in no position to order stopping of this practice; so he thought of getting the tables fixed to the floor to prevent the hall from being used as a ball room for dance purposes!)

Ranganathan’s exposure to the systems prevailing in libraries in England had not given him, evidently, a satisfactory model that he could straightaway implement in his library. The Madras University Library turned out to be Ranganathan’s laboratory for implementing, testing and evaluating many of the tools and techniques that he developed. The library was transformed, and it became the much sought-after resource not only for the students and scholars of the University, but also for the elites and intellectuals of the city whom Ranganathan had cultivated.

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4. Normative principles

One characteristic of Ranganathan that sets him apart is his search for a philosophical basis and scientific principles that could serve as the foundation for developing standard practices, tools and techniques. His experiences in the Madras University Library appear to have helped him identify areas and activities that required a scientific basis. By 1931 his search for a philosophical foundation crystalized into the Five Laws of Library Science and published as a book (Ranganathan 1931). The inspiration for the Five Laws, according to Ranganathan himself, came from Manu, the author of Dharmasastra. Ranganathan quotes Manu [2]:

To carry knowledge to those that lack it and to educate all to perceive the right! Even to give away the whole earth cannot equal that form of service

The Five Laws:

  • Books are for use
  • Every reader his book
  • Every book its reader
  • Save the time of the reader
  • Library is a growing organism
provided the philosophical foundation for every tool and technique that Ranganathan developed. As broad guidelines, the Five Laws can collectively be seen as a statement of the objectives of a library / information centre / information system. At a more general level they are just as applicable to any system if the word ‘books’ is replaced by ‘commodity’ / ‘product’/ ‘service’ and ‘reader’ by ‘customer’. At the time Ranganathan formulated the Five Laws, books were the principal carriers of information. Later, Ranganathan used the term document in place of books to include all forms of recorded information and is believed to have coined the expression ‘carriers of thought energy’ [3].

Ranganathan’s primary objective as a librarian was to make information easily retrievable and accessible to all those in search of information to widen their knowledge base, whatever be the purpose — research, learning, teaching, decision-making, recreation or simply curiosity. Given the objectives provided by his Five Laws, he went about developing tools and techniques to realize the objectives. His solutions came in the form of some of his most well-known works, viz., Colon Classification (CC) (first published in 1933), Classified Catalogue Code (CCC) (first published in 1934), Library Administration (first published in 1935), and Prolegomena to Library Classification (first published in 1937) providing a comprehensive theoretical basis for library classification.

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5. Ranganathan and librarianship

A biographical note on Ranganathan must mention his contributions to aspects of librarianship other than knowledge organization. Undoubtedly Ranganathan will be for long remembered and recognized for his path-breaking contributions to the area of knowledge organization. Yet, to have an idea of the ‘holistic’ personality that he was, it is necessary to, at least, briefly mention about his work in other areas of librarianship. It is difficult to judge the work of S. R. Ranganathan without referencing to the totality of librarianship.

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5.1 Library associations and public library movement

Quite early in his professional career, Ranganathan had realized the importance of political support for making library movement a people’s movement. In 1927 the All India Public Library Conference was held in Madras as an adjunct to the meeting of the Indian National Congress which was spearheading the freedom movement in India. The conference gave Ranganathan an opportunity to meet some local social and political heavy weights. With the support of Sir K. V. Krishnaswamy Aiyar, a leading advocate of Madras and a few other eminent persons associated with the Indian National Congress, Ranganathan founded the Madras Library Association (MALA) in January 1928. MALA had the objective to initiate and spread library movement across the length and breadth of Madras Presidency. Ranganathan conceived the idea of mobile library service to rural people and the first bullock cart library service was initiated in some villages in the Tanjore (now, Thanjavur) District of Madras Presidency; its huge success led to many similar projects in other parts of the district and elsewhere in the presidency — all funded and supported by the people of the regions served by the mobile libraries [4].

During his stay in England, Ranganathan had the opportunity to observe the functioning of many public libraries and the range of services they offered. He was convinced that an effective public library system was essential for national development and became a strong advocate of free public library service. He drafted public library bills for many states in India. However, the first legislation-based public library service was established in the Madras Presidency only after India attained independence. Thanks to Ranganathan’s efforts the Madras Public Libraries Act was passed by the legislature of the Madras Presidency in 1948, twenty years after MALA was founded! Ranganathan was instrumental in drafting and getting public library legislation bills passed in many other states of India. Ranganathan also prepared a plan for a national library system for India. The Government of India appointed a committee to explore the possibilities to establish a National Central Library in New Delhi, with S.R. Ranganathan as a member of the Committee. Ranganathan drafted a Library Development Plan: Thirty Year Programme for India with Draft Library Bill for the Union and Constituent States (Ranganathan 1950). Because of the efforts initiated by Ranganathan, today more than 20 Indian states have passed public library legislation.

Ranganathan also served as president of the Indian Library Association from 1944 to 1953. He also founded the Mysore Library Association (now Karnataka State Library Association) and the Indian Association of Teachers of Library Science (IATLIS) (now, Indian Association of Teachers of Library and Information Science).

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5.2 Information support for industry and R&D

Ranganathan was one of the founders of the Indian National Scientific Documentation Centre (INSDOC) established in 1952 under the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) with support from UNESCO to provide information support services for R&D activities. He was also chair of its first Scientific Advisory Committee. INSDOC was merged with NISCOM (National Institute of Science Communication), also a unit of CSIR, in 2002 to form NISCAIR (National Institute of Science Communication and Information Resources). In 1962 after returning from Zurich, Ranganathan founded the Documentation Research & Training Centre (DRTC) as a unit of the Indian Statistical Institute. The academic programme of DRTC was specially designed to train information specialists capable of designing and running information support systems for R&D and industry. DRTC also carried out advanced research in documentation with focus on developing and sharpening tools for knowledge organization including machine applications in information handling and processing.

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5.3 Ranganathan as a global player

Ranganathan used the Madras University Library as a laboratory where he experimented with new tools and techniques and introduced measures to enhance the quality of library service. It is no exaggeration to say that university libraries became visible to the academic and research community and to academic administrators in India largely due to what Ranganathan did in the Madras University Library. Ranganathan chose to voluntarily retire from the University of Madras two decades after he joined the library thanks to local politics. He was invited by the Banaras Hindu University and was there for less than two years before moving to Delhi in 1947 at the invitation of Sir Maurice Gwyer, the then Vice Chancellor of the University of Delhi, to start a library school in the University. With more than two decades of working experience in universities, and research in library science, Ranganathan’s ideas were much sought after by many organizations not only in India, but throughout the western world. The organizations included UNESCO, ISO, ALA and library associations of several other countries, IFLA, FID, Rockefeller Foundation, UN Committee of International Library Experts and the British Council, to mention a few. Between 1948 and 1964 Ranganathan was largely on professional visits to Japan and many countries in Europe and North America. Ranganathan spoke at the Aslib Conference (London, 1948) where he coined the term librametry (Dutta 2014).

Ranganathan moved to Zurich in 1954 and, barring a brief visit to India, he stayed in Zurich till 1957. The stay in Zurich, while making it easier for him to travel to North America and within Europe to meet his international commitments, also provided him the much-needed solitude to continue his writing work. He continued to contribute regularly to the Annals of library science. It was in Zurich that his magnum opus, Prolegomena to library classification was revised to become a comprehensive treatise on the theory of library classification. Ranganathan also utilized his stay in Zurich to regularly visit the library of the Department of Industrial Management at ETH, which led to his recognizing the importance of documentation service and the science of documentation, which was non-existent in India but hugely relevant to the economic progress of a developing country. That Ranganathan founded the Documentation Research and Training Centre (DRTC) after he returned to India is probably indicative of his realization of the importance of documentation science for a developing economy such as India.

During his stay in Zurich Ranganathan also continued to work for international organizations. His association with FID was most productive in terms of his contributions to the domain of knowledge organization. It was largely Ranganathan’s initiative and association with Donker Duyvis that led to the establishment of FID/CA, the FID Committee on Classification Theory. Ranganathan was made its rapporteur general in 1951, and in 1961, FID/CA was renamed as FID/CR, FID Committee on Classification Research (in 1994, while the abbreviation was retained, the name was changed to Committee on Classification Research for Knowledge Organization). FID/CR has played an important role in classification research by organizing a series of International Conferences on Classification Research. Ranganathan was an active participant in the first two of these conferences held in Dorking in 1957 and in Elsinore in 1964. He gave the opening address at Dorking and was the president of the Elsinore Conference. Ranganathan also participated in the International Conference on Cataloguing Principles (ICCP) organized by IFLA (with support from UNESCO) in Paris in 1961. The national library associations that were members of IFLA were asked by IFLA to nominate official delegates to the conference. When the Indian Library Association did not choose to nominate Ranganathan, the conference organizers invited Ranganathan in his individual capacity; probably the only one or among the very few to be invited to ICCP in individual capacity! Ranganathan (1962) published an elaborate commentary on the statement of principles adopted at the conference.

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5.4 Education for librarianship and information work

The need for trained personnel to run libraries was uppermost in Ranganathan’s mind after returning from UK. He started a certificate programme in 1929 as a summer school under the auspices of MALA. The school was taken over by the University of Madras in 1931. Ranganathan started a post-graduate diploma programme in library science in the University of Madras in 1937, the first such programme to be offered by any university in India. Ranganathan donated his life’s savings to the University of Madras in its centenary year — 1957 — to create a chair in (Sarada Ranganathan professor in library science), the first university professorship in library science in the entire British Commonwealth! A full-fledged Department of Library Science was started in the University in 1960 to offer a bachelor’s degree programme in library science. The University has been offering a master’s programme in library and information science since 1977 and a doctoral programme since 1990. In 1948 Ranganathan moved to Delhi at the invitation of the University of Delhi to establish a Department of Library Science (started as an associate project of UNESCO) with bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degree programmes. In 1965 the University Grants Commission constituted a Review Committee to review university education programmes in library science and to suggest measures to modernize and update the courses. Ranganathan served as chairman of the committee and the report of the committee, Library Science in Indian Universities continued to serve as the reference document for universities offering education programmes in library & information science for many years. The most significant contribution of Ranganathan to library education in the country came with the establishment of the Documentation Research & Training Centre (DRTC) as a unit of the Indian Statistical Institute in Bangalore offering an associateship programme at DRTC (now a master of science programme). Ranganathan himself was a honorary professor at DRTC. The products of DRTC, especially in the initial years, got absorbed by R&D laboratories, big industries and large research libraries and this had a major impact on the nature of not only education in library and information science but also library and information services in the country as whole.

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5.5 Work on standards

Ranganathan was largely responsible for setting up of the Documentation Sectional Committee of the Indian Standards Institution (now, Bureau of Indian Standards), which he chaired. Some of the important standards that the committee formulated include (the list is not exhaustive):

  • IS 4: Standard Practice for Make Up of Periodicals
  • IS 18: Standard Abbreviations of Titles of Periodicals
  • IS 382: Standard for Alphabetical Arrangement
  • IS 790-794: Standard for Preliminary Pages of a Book
  • IS 2381: Standard for Bibliographical References
  • IS 796: Glossary of Cataloguing Terms
  • IS 1250: Standard Proof Correction Symbols
  • IS 1358: Standard for Catalogue Codes
  • IS 2550: Glossary of Classification Terms

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5.6 Channels of communication

In the organizations he was associated with, Ranganathan developed effective channels of communication. While in Delhi he formed the Library Research Circle as a forum for discussion on matters related to libraries in general, but mostly on classification and cataloguing. He used the ABGILA (Annals, Bulletin, Granthalaya) of the Indian Library Association, FID’s Review of Documentation, Aslib’s Journal of Documentation, Library Association Record, Annals of Library Science, the proceedings of FID/CR conferences, etc. for publishing his research. After his return to India to establish the Documentation Research and Training Centre, most of his research papers appeared in DRTC Annual Seminar volumes or as papers in the journal he himself founded, Library Science with a Slant to Documentation (published by the Sarada Ranganathan Endowment for Library Science; the journal continues to be published even today under the title SRELS Journal of Information Management). The DRTC Annual Seminars were effectively used by Ranganathan to publish research by himself and his associates in DRTC. Ranganathan also used to organize a refresher / training programme at DRTC every year to update the members of library and information science community in the country on current developments in the area.

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5.7 The Sarada Ranganathan Endowment for Library Science

Ranganathan founded the Sarada Ranganathan Endowment for Library Science (SRELS) in 1963 as a registered not-for-profit trust for furthering the cause of library science, to organize and publish lectures on themes of relevance to library science, and to conduct training programmes/workshops, etc. The Endowment holds the copyright for all books of Ranganathan and runs on the royalty from the continued sale of these books and other publications. Presently the Endowment organizes four different series of lectures, viz., Sarada Ranganathan Endowment Lectures (right from the beginning), Ranganathan Memorial Lectures (from 1972), Curzon Co Seshachalam Lectures and A. Neelameghan Memorial Lectures (from 2015). The Endowment also publishes the journal founded by Ranganathan and revisions of Ranganathan’s works.

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5.8 Honours and awards

Ranganathan was recipient of many honours and awards. Some noteworthy awards are:

  • Rao Saheb (in 1935 from the Government of India under British rule)
  • doctorate honoris causa (University of Delhi, 1948)
  • honorary fellow, Virginia Bibliographic Society, 1951
  • honorary member, Indian Association of Special Libraries and Information Centres, 1956
  • padmashri (from the Government of India in 1957)
  • honorary vice-president, Library Association (London), 1957
  • honorary fellow, International Federation for Documentation, 1957
  • honorary DLitt (University of Pittsburg, 1964)
  • honorary fellow, Indian Standards Institution, 1967
  • national research professor (Government of India, 1965)
  • Margaret Mann citation (American Library Association, 1970; the very first time the citation was presented to a person from outside USA)
  • grand knight of peace, Mark Twain Society, U.S.A., 1971

Ranganathan himself instituted prizes/studentships to be awarded to students in the various institutions/places where he had worked.

  • 1934: Edward B. Ross Studentship, Madras Christian College
  • 1958: Sarada Ranganathan Prize for Mathematics, Government College, Mangalore
  • 1958: Sarada Ranganathan Merit Prize, Sanskrit College, Sriperumbudur (near Chennai)
  • 1959 Sarada Ranganathan Merit Prize, High School, Ujjain, Madhya Pradesh

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6. Ranganathan’s style of writing

A biographical note on Ranganathan would be incomplete without a reference to his unique style of writing. Sections of some of his papers are in the form of a dialogue between him and someone else, closely resembling a blog on today’s Web. Ranganathan effectively employed this style of presentation in many of his writings to drive home his points. Another feature is the use of analogies especially from ancient Indian scriptures, writings of eminent people from different countries on different subjects and linking them to concepts in library science. His use of specialized terminology is another feature that characterizes his writings. Ranganathan probably did more than anyone else to develop and adopt a standard terminology especially in the areas of classification and cataloguing and was very particular about consistent use of terminology. Many of his papers would also begin with a glossary of technical terms employed in the text. However, Ranganathan’s language has also been the subject of criticism by some, particularly western authors.

The semantic and syntactic structure of Ranganathan’s language may serve to hinder easy comprehension of his principles of facet analysis. Sentences such as “The denotation of a term [...] should be determined in the light of the different classes or ranked isolates of lower order (upper links) belonging to the same primary chain as the class or the ranked isolate denoted by the term in question” (Ranganathan 1967, 208) tend to leave some doubt as to what Ranganathan is trying to say (i.e. that a term’s meaning and context depend upon its location in the classification schedules). It is often necessary to read such sentences several times before they can be understood, and even then, one may not be certain that full comprehension has occurred (Spiteri 1998).

Ranganathan also adopted a unique referencing style for bibliographical references in his writings. This style was later adopted and published by the Indian Standards Institution (now, Bureau of Indian Standards) as the Indian standard for bibliographical references. The most significant characteristic of this style is its two-way linking; linking a section of the text to related references and linking references to appropriate portions of the text. To realize this, he would elaborately number the sections of the text. Satija (1978) has published a book on Ranganathan’s style and methods.

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7. Publications and impact

Ranganathan was a prolific writer and researcher; he continued to write and publish till the very end. During his lifetime he published over 60 books and 1500+ research papers/articles. The volume 2 of Ranganathan Festschrift edited by Dasgupta (1965) lists his writings and writings on him. In June 2015, the Google Scholar profiles of classic scholars became available. Twenty-nine deceased scholars were listed of whom Ranganathan was the only one from any developing country. In 1985, the Indian Library Association organized an international conference on ‘Ranganathan’s Philosophy’ in New Delhi (Rajagopalan 1986). As a post-conference event the FID/CR had its regional conference in Delhi (Dr. → I. Dahlberg was the chair of FID/CR at that time). Libri devoted an entire issue (Volume 42 no. 3 in 1992) to “revisit” Ranganathan (1992 was the birth centenary year of Ranganathan). Lancaster, Zeter and Metzler (1972) have studied Ranganathan’s influence using bibliometrics. A special issue of the SRELS Journal of Information Management (also published separately as a book to celebrate the golden jubilee of the journal) was brought out in 2013, which largely consists of papers that re-examine Ranganathan’s ideas. Smiraglia (2013) employs the domain analytical approach to review and map Ranganathan’s influence on research in knowledge organization. The December 2015 issue of Annals of Library Science and Information Studies is devoted to Ranganathan’s work. Not long ago, an OCLC research sought to reorder the Five Laws of Library Science of Ranganathan in the context of shifting user behaviour (Connaway and Faniel 2015) [5]. More recently, in October 2017, the Sarada Ranganathan Endowment for Library Science in association with ISKO (India Chapter) and a few other organizations organized an international conference, Revisiting Ranganathan as part of the 125th birth anniversary of Ranganathan. The ISKO Singapore Chapter moved its annual convention, Innovations in Knowledge Organization (IKO 2017), to India as a pre-conference event of this international conference, Revisiting Ranganathan.

In the following paragraphs, we briefly examine and discuss Ranganathan’s contributions to the theory and practice of knowledge organization, which is the core of this encyclopedic essay.

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8. Ranganathan’s contributions to knowledge organization

It is indeed a tall order in an article such as this to catalogue and explain Ranganathan’s contributions to the domain of → knowledge organization. Ranganathan’s interest in → classification began even as a student of Berwick Sayers at the University College London. His dissatisfaction with the existing systems of classification of that time led him to work on a new approach to classification. He mentions that he got the right clue when he observed a Meccano set of a few basic components which could be combined to make different toys. Throughout his professional life, despite his occupation in India and elsewhere in the world with issues related to other aspects of librarianship, Ranganathan continued his work on classification, which began in the 1920s, till the very end.

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8.1 General theory of classification

Ranganathan firmly believed that the most practical thing in the world is to have a theory to guide the practice. He was probably influenced by Sayers’ Canons in his own search for a comprehensive theory of classification. Ranganathan must have also been considerably influenced by Bliss (1967a, xii-xv). Ranganathan mentions that he went through the two classics of Bliss — Organization of Knowledge in Libraries and Organization of Knowledge and the System of Sciences that influenced his own theory enunciated in the Prolegomena. However, Bliss appears to have referred to Ranganathan as an “upstart” as he felt that Ranganathan did not give him the credit for what he had learnt from him (Garfield 1975). The BC2 itself has been substantially influenced by Ranganathan’s ideas.

Ranganathan began working on a theory of classification soon after his return to India to take charge of the Madras University Library where he experimented with his ideas. He continued refining the theory till he passed away in 1972 and his work has been continued by his associates in the Sarada Ranganathan Endowment for Library Science and DRTC. The first edition of → Colon Classification (CC) (so named because : was the only indicator digit used for connecting facets) was published in 1933 and, by 1960, in a span of 27 years, it had seen six editions, a rate of revision matched by only a few other schemes. A couple of years before he passed away Ranganathan (1969) also published a preview of the 7th edition of CC.

Ranganathan’s → facet analytical approach to classification is probably the single most important contribution to the theory and practice of knowledge organization that 20th Century witnessed [6]. The fact that the idea has proved to be portable across time and technology, and even into the Internet era clearly demonstrates its resilience, adaptability and flexibility. While many researchers in knowledge Organization — in UK, Europe and North America — disputed his schema (his schedule of basic subjects and his five fundamental categories, viz. PMEST), his idea of facet analysis found wide acceptance and application. So much so that in 1955, the Classification Research Group (CRG) (1955) of the UK issued a manifesto suggesting that faceted classification should be the basis of all methods of information retrieval. The members of CRG — particularly, D.J. Foskett, → E.J. Coates, Barbara Kyle, → B.C. Vickery, Jack Mills — experimented with using facet analysis for designing quite a few special classification schemes. The research and development work carried out by members of the CRG resulted in a number of documents that demonstrate not only the application of facet analysis to design of knowledge organization systems, but are also indicative of the extended approaches that members of the CRG proposed in the application of facet analysis (Foskett 1970). Later, they also initiated a project to design a new general classification, which was never realized (Library Association 1964). However, this work eventually led to PRECIS system of indexing that Derek Austin (1974) designed for indexing the classified part of British National Bibliography (BNB) and used for a few years beginning in 1971 and inspired the later Integrative Levels Classification (more on CRG and Ranganathan later in this note). That the application of facet analysis was by no means confined to design of classification schemes had been made amply clear by Ranganathan (1964). His paper in the Journal of Documentation clearly demonstrates the application of facet analysis to alphabetical subject indexing. This line of research at DRTC eventually led to POPSI (Postulate-based Permuted Subject Indexing) (Bhattacharyya and Neelameghan 1969; Bhattacharyya 1979).

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8.1.1 Canons & principles

A few years after publishing CC, Ranganathan came out with a comprehensive theory of classification (which he and his associates refer to, in their writings, as the “General Theory of Classification”) in the form of Prolegomena to Library Classification (first edition published in 1937). In his preface to the 2nd edition of Prolegomena Sayers (1957) remarks: “A most precise, theoretical, practical and comparative exposition of classification theory […] intensely original”. The 3rd edition of this book was published in 1967. Ranganathan’s approach is unique in several respects.

First, he divides the work of classification into three planes, viz., idea plane (the plane of concepts), verbal plane (the plane of terminology) and → notational plane (the plane of symbols). He then goes on to provide many principles — all derived from the Five Laws — and guidelines (in the form of principles, canons and postulates) for work in each of these planes. The canons of characteristics for division of a class (universe) into subclasses (to form an array), the canons for array, canons for chain, etc. along with his general principles that govern the grammar (syntax) for subject structuring provide a comprehensive guide for design of a classification scheme (CC is merely one instance of the application of his General Theory). His most well-known syntactic principle is the famous “wall-picture principle” (and all its derivatives), referred to by Hutchins (1975) as the “principle of dependence”. Simply stated, the principle suggests that a concept follows the concept to which it is subordinate in a classificatory or grammatical sense (Raghavan 1984). This is the most general principle of Ranganathan’s theory that governs the sequence of facets in subject structuring in CC.

Ranganathan’s method of postulates is another important feature of his theory. A postulate is an axiom and in postulating, Ranganathan suggested that, one should ask “what is helpful?”. His postulates of basic subject (every subject has a basic subject) and five fundamental categories (PMEST) are based on this axiomatic approach.

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8.1.2 Fundamental categories

The categorial approach to classification characterizes Ranganathan’s theory of classification and sets it apart from earlier approaches. Ranganathan postulated five fundamental categories (FC) of concepts (other than basic subjects and form divisions), viz., Personality, Matter, Energy, Space and Time (PMEST). The fundamental categories form the basis of facet analysis. The major theoretical contribution of these, which Ranganathan saw quite early in his revisions of CC, is the realization that these broad categories of concepts were common to subjects going with practically every basic subject (concepts belonging to Space and Time were common to all subjects). Ranganathan suggested that all concepts (isolate ideas) occurring within a basic subject could be categorized into one of the five FC. The FC of Ranganathan have been the subject of extensive examination and criticism. These were the basis for Vickery’s standard order, and the thirteen categories CRG came out with in its search for a new general classification. Ranganathan also came up with the idea of speciator (species-maker, suggested in a letter to him by Jack Mills), to handle compound terms (combination of a noun qualified by an adjective or a prepositional phrase). In subject structuring (synthesizing ideas to represent a compound subject), the syntax is governed by the wall-picture principle. Interestingly, Ranganathan (1967) suggested research into what he called as “absolute syntax” to ensure a stable and generally acceptable facet sequence [7]. Neelameghan (1975) has explored research in linguistics, psychology, etc. to suggest that an absolute syntax may indeed exist.

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8.1.3 The verbal plane

The plane of terminology did not receive much attention in Ranganathan’s theory. There are only a few canons that govern the use of terminology in his Prolegomena. However, Ranganathan has been consistent in his use of terminology in CC; e.g., using only singular forms, and noun forms (rather than gerund forms) when available, to denote “actions” in the schedules of CC.

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8.1.4 The notational plane

The notational plane received a great deal of attention in Ranganathan’s schema and theory. He came up with and employed many devices to make the notation of CC hospitable to accommodate new subjects and concepts, e.g. the ideas of zone analysis, empty and emptying digits. It does appear that he was quite obsessed with the idea of co-extensive classification to the extent that CC notation became so very complex making it difficult for the user community to accept it despite its very scientific approach [8]. This could be one of the principal factors contributing to the skepticism with which CC is viewed by many in India and even more so outside India.

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8.1.5 Basic subjects and the sequence of basic subjects

CC was, like Dewey Decimal Classification, designed as a library classification scheme. As such the notion of basic subjects (→ disciplines/main classes) was essential to order documents on library shelves. Ranganathan suggested that basic subjects (BS) in a schedule of classification should be postulated depending on the need (based on → literary warrant, existence of professional bodies devoted to a domain, educational programmes and courses of study on the domain, etc.). The number of basic subjects in CC grew from 30+ in the early editions to over 100 in the 7th edition. The broad sequence of BS in CC is: generalia, tool disciplines, natural sciences, humanities followed by social sciences. The sequence broadly reflects the order suggested by the theory of → integrative levels except that, in CC an applied science/discipline follows the pure discipline of which it is an application (engineering follows physics, chemical technology follows chemistry, mining follows geology, agriculture follows botany, animal husbandry and medicine follow zoology, education follows psychology, social work follows sociology, etc.). The broad order of basic subjects in CC also reflects a sequence of increasing artificiality in that disciplines that have naturally occurring entities as their core entity of study (Personality) have precedence over disciplines that study entities that are artificially created by humans (e.g., communities, societies, nations, etc.). One of Ranganathan’s important contributions is his effort to identify and label the modes of formation of subjects [9]. This could be seen as a step in the direction of finding an epistemological foundation for knowledge organization. Neelameghan (1973) carried this work forward and, in a series of papers, has labeled and explained, with illustrations, the different modes of formation of subjects.

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8.2 Critical evaluation of ranganathan’s ideas

Most people associate Ranganathan closely with classification theory and the Colon Classification. It should not, therefore, come as a surprise that most references to Ranganathan’s work fall into the area of classification. There is no question that Ranganathan and his ideas have been the most influencing factors that have determined the direction and focus of much of classification research in the 20th Century; his ideas continue to impact research and thinking in knowledge organization even today. As Miksa has put it, Ranganathan could

discover the very nature and order of things, an order based on principles which are eternal, unchanging, and all-encompassing. There is virtually no area of Ranganathan’s work and personal life in which this quest for discovering the inner or essential order behind the visible world is absent. (Miksa 1998, 67)

Clare Beghtol (2006) writes:

Evidence is presented that facet concept has a claim to be considered as a method of subdivision that is cognitively available to human beings, regardless of language, culture or academic discipline. The possibility that faceting is a universal method of subdivision enhances the claim that facet analysis as an unusually useful design principle for information retrieval classifications in any field. This possibility needs further investigation in an age when information access across boundaries is both necessary and possible.

All this is not to suggest that his theories and ideas have not been disputed. In fact, there is a great deal of critical writing especially on Ranganathan’s five fundamental categories and his Colon Classification. In the following paragraphs, we will briefly examine some of these. Substantial early writings on Ranganathan’s work include those by Atherton (Atherton Cochrane) (1965), Richmond (1960), and Dahlberg (1976). Perhaps the most bitter critic of Ranganathan and his ideas is Metcalfe (1959) of Australia who in his book even questions Ranganathan’s originality [10].

Ranganathan published his Colon Classification before he published his theory of classification in the Prolegomena. Ranganathan and his ideas became visible to the West — North America and Europe — largely because of the writings of B. I. Palmer, a public librarian in UK, who was sent to Madras (now Chennai) as a member of the British armed forces. Palmer met Ranganathan, who was librarian of the University of Madras, became his disciple and received lessons in the then comparatively new idea of facet analysis. Palmer and Wells (1951) wrote Fundamentals of Library Classification, which carried the message of facet analysis to librarians in UK and elsewhere [11]. The members of the British Classification Research Group were also the first, outside India, to apply Ranganathan’s theories and critically evaluate their practical value and utility in the design of classification schemes.

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8.2.1: The philosophical basis of Ranganathan’s schema and categories

There is no question that Ranganathan, in formulating his theory of classification has been influenced by Hindu philosophy, Western philosophers like Aristotle, and earlier theoreticians of classification including Sayers and Bliss. Ranganathan viewed the universe of subjects as multidimensional in nature and adopted the method of postulates for identifying basic subjects (main classes) in his Colon Classification. While he has made a reference to the Vedic scheme of classes (the four classes postulated in the Vedic scheme are: dharma, artha, kaama and moksha), it is not clear if his own initial schema of main classes in CC was influenced by this. Adhikary and Nandi (2003) have examined the Indian philosophical origins of Ranganathan’s categories and suggest that the way reality is reflected in CC should be seen as an expression of a Hindu worldview.

There are suggestions that even in arriving at his fundamental categories, Ranganathan has been influenced by earlier theories. Moss (1964) suggests that Ranganathan’s categories show a marked resemblance to the categories put forward by Aristotle. He has also contrasted the methodology of Ranganathan with that of Farradane based on the British school of empirical philosophy. There are suggestions that Ranganathan was influenced by Hindu philosophy in postulating his fundamental categories. Mazzocchi and Gnoli (2010) and Mazzocchi (2013) have shown the influence of Hindu philosophy on Ranganathan’s categories. Their works explore the similarities between the categories enumerated in the Vaisesika system of Hindu philosophy and PMEST.

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8.2.2: The CRG, Western world and Ranganathan

There is not much in the published works of CRG on the nature of concepts and their philosophical basis (Broughton 2014, 40). CRG, while accepting facet analysis as the right method for designing schemes of classification, did consider some conceptual questions related to theory of classification in an effort to carry forward Ranganathan’s ideas. Much of early CRG work was largely concerned with building special faceted classification schemes. In this phase CRG put forth the suggestion that the nature and number of categories are a function of the discipline. Foskett (1958) observed that Ranganathan had not given an adequate exposition of the basis of his categories. Norman Roberts (1969) in an essay exposed the “inconsistencies” in the application of the notion of Personality in Ranganathan’s Colon Classification. Foskett (1986) has also examined the Personality facet of Ranganathan. The CRG’s idea of categories is much broader than Ranganathan’s. Vickery (1960), for example, argues that a longer list of fundamental categories has proved helpful in science and technology. His standard order listing thirteen fundamental categories is widely known.

CRG also did not agree with Ranganathan’s postulational approach (axiomatic approach) to determine basic subjects (main classes). CRG looked at the theory of integrative levels as the basis for a new general classification and to determine the order of main classes.

Tennis (2017) takes a holistic view of Ranganathan’s approach to classification theory. He identifies different layers as Ranganathan’s theory evolved over time and calls it “the FASDA model” of classification.

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8.2.3 Other relevant comments

A major limitation attributed to Ranganathan’s approach to classification theory is the limitation of the Aristotelian logic that both Sayers and he adopted. Hjørland (2013, 551) has examined at length the theoretical foundations of the facet analytic tradition and says that faceted classifications use logical division at the expense of other methods of → classification (in particular, the empirical methods). He further suggests that several kinds of logic exist, and that the Aristotelian branch seems to have been out of favor among philosophers for a long time. He concludes that faceted approach “seems to be based on traditional logic and that both the relation to that basis and the limitations by relying on that foundation has not been properly examined within LIS” (2013, 553). In another paper Hjørland (2014) examines the views of some prominent researchers in knowledge organization and argues that the facet-analytic approach to knowledge organization is based on rationalism. While the approach of the facet-analytic school is rationalistic in nature, it has been argued that the different schemas proposed within the school represent a pragmatic approach (Tennis 2008, 108). Ranganathan, in postulating his set of basic subjects and the five fundamental categories, appears to have adopted a pragmatic approach (what is helpful and adequate for the purpose on hand?) (see also Gnoli 2017). However, its rationalist core is supported by Dousa (2019). Raghavan and Iyer (1978) have demonstrated the adequacy and helpfulness of the schema of categories of Ranganathan and the rules of syntax in structuring compound subjects in the social sciences. Whatever arguments have been made against the FC of Ranganathan are equally applicable to other schemas, e.g., those put forth by members of the CRG. Miksa (1998) says that Ranganathan rigorously pursued the goal of finding one best subject classification system. He feels that

Ranganathan’s faceted universe of subjects has been adopted as much for what appears to be some sort of intuitive correctness as for any other reason, but a claim of this sort is little more than unsupported speculation. Still, one cannot easily miss how nicely his formulation of the facet idea seems to fit certain subject areas, and this may be reason enough to adopt it as a standard approach, regardless of whether it has any sound scientific basis or whether it always serves well (Miksa 1998, 75).
He goes on to suggest that Ranganathan’s use of faceted structure of subjects may well have represented his need to find more order and regularity, in the realm of subjects, than exists (Miksa 1998, 73). We shall return to some of these observations in the concluding section of this biographical note.

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8.3 Ranganathan and cataloguing

Ranganathan authored the world’s first complete code for a classified catalogue. His Classified Catalogue Code was first published in 1934 and the theory behind it was published as Theory of Library Catalogue in 1938. The code was designed for an open access library and prescribed only a minimum level of description. The rules in his catalogue code were preceded by a set of principles and canons providing necessary guidelines for drafting specific rules for cataloguing of different kinds of books and periodicals. CCC also included rules for abstracting and a complete section containing rules for national bibliographies.

Two major contributions of Ranganathan to the field of cataloguing and indexing deserve special mention. His chain indexing — as an effective method of deriving an alphabetical index to a classified catalogue has been widely used. Besides the Madras University library catalogue, it had its first large scale application in the British National Bibliography (from its inception in 1950 till 1970 when chain indexing was replaced by PRECIS). The application of chain indexing to different schemes of classification has been the subject of investigation and research. John Philip Immroth’s (1970) doctoral research was on application of chain indexing to the Library of Congress Classification. Mills (1963) has, in his introduction to UDC, referred to chain indexing as the most effective way of indexing any classification. Mills (1960) devoted an entire chapter to demonstrate the application of chain indexing procedure. One of the most important contributions to refining chain indexing, especially its application to schemes of classification that are not faceted has come from Coates (1960). Ranganathan consistently emphasized the symbiotic relation between classification and the catalogue. Chain indexing is a good example of the index to the classified catalogue complementing the classified arrangement of books on library shelves and the order of entries in the classified catalogue. The subject heading derived using chain indexing, merely inverts the classificatory hierarchy thereby resulting in alphabetical subject headings that group together related subjects scattered in the classification scheme and the classified arrangement of entries in a catalogue or bibliography (referred to as “collocation of distributed relatives” by Jack Mills). Secondly, Ranganathan made an extensive analysis of Indic personal names in his CCC; so much so that the AACR2, in place of providing detailed guidelines, merely directs cataloguers to the relevant section of CCC. It was also Ranganathan who deemed it necessary to adequately and unambiguously define terms such as → work, edition, etc. The elaborate definitions of work, manifestation, etc. in → FRBR are a testimony to Ranganathan’s foresight.

Ranganathan should also be credited with the first comprehensive comparative study of catalogue codes. His Heading and Canons (Ranganathan 1955) is a comparative study of five catalogue codes and has been hailed by D.J. Foskett as a significant contribution to comparative librarianship.

An important idea proposed by Ranganathan (1959) is, what he called as “pre-natal classification and cataloguing” — classifying and cataloguing a book at the pre-publication stage. Interestingly Ranganathan proposed the idea in 1948 at a meeting he addressed in the Library of Congress. The idea was put into practice by the Library of Congress in its “cataloging-at-source” experiment in 1958-59. A slightly modified version of this in the form of cataloging-in-publication is in operation today not only at the Library of Congress but also in many national libraries around the world.

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9. Concluding remarks

A few observations by way of concluding remarks should be in order. There is no question that there was some degree of lack of clarity in the meaning and connotation of FC. Only a few years before he passed away, Ranganathan had re-categorized certain types of concepts, earlier categorized as manifestations of Energy, as manifestations of Matter. However, the meaning and connotation of the FC are now clear (Gopinath 1984; Raghavan 1986, 27-31). The core entity of study of a domain (basic subject/discipline) is its Personality. Matter denotes attributes and properties. Energy denotes action-type ideas; Space and Time are straightforward categories. Some of the questions raised about FC relate to the number of categories postulated by Ranganathan and their adequacy in categorizing concepts encountered in different domains. The question should be whether the schema is helpful. Practical experience in designing many depth classification schedules for classification of micro-subjects has clearly shown the helpfulness and adequacy of the schema — basic subjects, fundamental categories and speciator — for structuring subjects.

One aspect of CC that has come in for severe criticism is its very complex notation (Satija and Jagtar Singh 2013, 268). In his obsession with co-extensive classification Ranganathan clearly continued to work on extending the hospitality of the notation to accommodate and co-extensively classify new and emerging micro-subjects. The result has been that the notation of CC became very complex over the editions and this has been a major factor affecting the acceptance of CC by libraries. The revision of CC is in progress and a policy decision has been taken to ensure brevity of class numbers in the forthcoming revised edition to make it more acceptable to libraries (Raghavan 2013).

In a biographical note on Ranganathan it should be in order to comment on the connotation and interpretation of the terms facet, facet analysis, and categories, which were first introduced into knowledge organization by Ranganathan. It is not the intention here to quote from literature to show how different writers have used the terms in different ways (Gnoli 2017). There have been inconsistencies in the use and application of these terms in the literature on knowledge organization. The terms facet and categories have even been used as though they are synonyms. At least some of the problems in the area could be overcome by a clear definition and application of these terms [12].

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9.1 Future

There is hardly any aspect of librarianship, information work and service that Ranganathan has not touched upon. His legacy can be seen in libraries and academic institutions all over India. Ranganathan and his ideas continue to attract attention as his tools and techniques continue to be relevant and find application even in the digital environment. To quote David Weinberger (2012) in an article he wrote in Forrester, “It’s as if Ranganathan designed Colon Classification in 1933 specifically for the kind of instant reshuffling that computers made feasible decades later”. Ranganathan’s idea of facets and facet analysis continue to find applications in the digital environment. Weinberger also quotes Steve Papas, co-founder of Endeca, which uses Ranganathan’s system in its software: “Facets are all about manipulating multidimensional space”. “You cannot do that in the physical world. But Ranganathan was ahead of his time. The constraints of the physical world did not inhibit his imagination”. Faceted approach is considered very relevant in Web applications. Mustafa El Hadi (2014, 22) quotes from Kathryn La Barre’s PhD dissertation:

Information architects seemingly rediscovered a legacy form of information organization and access: faceted analytico-synthetic theory (FAST) consisting of a set of principles and techniques to organize information. This exploration of connections between the intellectual foundations of information organization and current practices of Web design looks to past heritage for guidance and to current practices for evidence.

That Ranganathan’s theory of classification had been continuously evolving is clear. In designing his Colon Classification and in developing his general theory of classification Ranganathan appears to have focused on a fully expressive system of classification capable of accommodating not only ideas that exist but also ideas that were yet to develop. His focus on identifying modes of formation of subjects and extending the hospitality of the notation of CC are indicative of this. As Tennis (2011) has put it, understanding Ranganathan in all his complexity and in his own terms is important to advancing classification. The Five Laws of library science and the analytico-synthetic approach to classification of Colon Classification are among the most significant contributions to the theoretical underpinnings of librarianship that the 20th Century witnessed. Perhaps the full impact of Ranganathan’s contributions is yet to be felt as some of his ideas seem to have anticipated developments that were brought about by technology decades later.

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1. Yogeshwar (2001) has probably written the most complete available biography of Ranganathan that has been published as a book by the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Mumbai; there is also a biographical article written by Gopinath (1978) in the Encyclopedia of Library and Information Science. Ranganathan himself published a series of autobiographical essays under the title A librarian looks back, which appeared in the journal Herald of Library Science. It was completed by Kaula and published in 1992 in book form (Ranganathan 1992), A Librarian looks back: an autobiography of Dr. S.R. Ranganathan. New Delhi: ABC Publishing House. Girja Kumar (1991) has also written and published a biography of Ranganathan.

2. Manu was the first to publish social laws in the form of a systematized code, called Dharmasastra around 100 AD.

3. I was unable to find exactly where the expression had been used.

4. Decades later a librarian of the Tamil University, Thanjavur got a replica of the cart used for mobile library service made and kept it in front of the university library building.

5. First published in SRELS Journal of Information Management 52 no. 1, February 2015.

6. Undoubtedly, there are earlier examples of use of synthesis, albeit in a very limited fashion, both in DDC and, to a greater extent, in UDC; but it was Ranganathan who elaborated it and established it as a scientific approach.

7. Later, Neelameghan (1975) explored evidences from research in educational psychology, cybernetics, linguistics, etc. to support the conjecture that an absolute syntax might exist (see Neelameghan’s (1975) paper in the Proceedings of the FID/CR Third International Conference on Classification Research, Bombay, 1975).

8. The many schedules of depth classification that Ranganathan and his colleagues developed and published clearly indicate the complexity of the notation of CC. It is even being felt that the CC notation instead of mechanizing arrangement and assisting retrieval, could itself act as a barrier to efficient storage and quick retrieval.

9. Shera (1970) refers to Ranganathan’s work on modes of formation of subjects in his book Foundations of education for librarianship; Shera’s Sarada Ranganathan Endowment for Library Science Lectures published as Sociological foundations of librarianship in Bombay by Asia Publishing House in 1970 also makes a reference to this. The work on modes of formation of subjects was carried forward by Neelameghan (1973) (first Ranganathan Memorial Lectures, published as a series of papers on basic subjects in Library Science with a Slant to documentation 10 no. 2, June 1973); a more recent paper by Satija, Madalli and Dutta (2014) in Knowledge Organization also explains this.

10. When, in 1970, BNB replaced chain indexing of Ranganathan with PRECIS to index its classified part, Metcalfe appears to have remarked, ‘BNB is free from Ranganathan’s chains’!

11. This is not to suggest that Ranganathan’s work was unknown to the West earlier; but Ranganathan’s writings were not easy reading. The credit for interpreting and popularizing Ranganathan’s ideas in a manner understandable to the West should go to Palmer and Wells, and to many others who became part of the Classification Research Group.

12. Facet merely refers to a component of a subject. There can be any number of facets in a subject. Categories, on the other hand, are limited in number, postulated by the designer of the scheme based on what is deemed helpful and adequate. In Ranganathan’s theory, five categories (apart from basic subjects and anteriorising common isolates/form divisions) have been postulated. Vickery’s schema has a larger number of categories. Bhattacharyya (1979) postulates only four “elementary categories”. There are other schemas of categories. Facet analysis is the process of identifying the facets in a subject. Once the facets are identified, these are categorized according to the schema of categories. The sequence of facets is determined by the rules of grammar (syntax) of the scheme of classification (e.g., wall-picture principle of Ranganathan)

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Ranganathan’s works: select bibliography

The list is not comprehensive. For a more complete list of Ranganathan’s publications, please see Dasgupta (1967).

Ranganathan, S.R. 1931a. Five laws of library science. Madras: Madras Library Association.

Ranganathan, S.R. 1931b. Model library act. Madras: Madras Library Association.

Ranganathan, S. R. ed. 1931c. Papers presented to the First All India Educational Conference, Library Section. Madras: South Indian Teacher.

Ranganathan, S. R. 1933. Colon classification. Madras: Madras Library Association.

Ranganathan, S. R. 1934a. Classified catalogue code. Madras: Madras Library Association.

Ranganathan, S.R. 1934b. Madras public library bill. Madras: Madras Library Association.

Ranganathan, S. R. 1935. Library administration. Madras: Madras Library Association.

Ranganathan, S. R. 1937. Prolegomena to library classification. Madras: Madras Library Association.

Ranganathan, S. R. et al ed. 1938a. Directory of Indian libraries. Calcutta: Indian Library Association.

Ranganathan, S. R. 1938b. Theory of library catalogue. Madras: Madras Library Association.

Ranganathan, S. R. 1939. Colon classification. 2nd ed. Madras: Madras Library Association.

Ranganathan, S. R. and Sundaram, C. 1940. Reference service and bibliography. Vol. 1. Theory. Madras: Madras Library Association.

Ranganathan, S. R. 1941. Reference service and bibliography. Vol. 2. Bibliography of reference books and bibliographies. Madras: Madras Library Association.

Ranganathan, S. R. 1942a. Draft model Indian library act. Calcutta: Indian Library Association.

Ranganathan, S.R. 1942b. School and college libraries. Madras: Madras Library Association.

Ranganathan, S. R. 1944a. Library classification: fundamentals and procedure with 1008 graded examples and exercises. Madras: Madras Library Association.

Ranganathan, S. R. 1944b. Post-war reconstruction of libraries in India: a scheme. Lahore: Punjab Library Association.

Ranganathan, S. R. 1945a. Classification of Marathi literature. Poona: N K Publishing House.

Ranganathan, S. R. 1945b. Classified catalogue code.2nd ed. Madras: Madras Library Association.

Ranganathan, S. R. 1945c. Dictionary catalogue code. Madras: Madras Library Association.

Ranganathan, S. R. 1945d. Elements of library classification based on lectures delivered at the University of Bombay in December 1944. Poona: N K Publishing House.

Ranganathan, S.R. 1946a. National library system: a plan for India. Lahore: Indian Librarian.

Ranganathan, S.R. 1946b. Suggestions for the organization of libraries in India. Madras: Oxford University Press.

Ranganathan, S. R. 1947a. Classification and International Documentation. The Hague: FID.

Ranganathan, S.R. 1947b. Library development plan for the Allahabad University. Allahabad: University of Allahabad.

Ranganathan, S. R. 1947c. Library development plan with a draft library bill for the province of Bombay. Bombay: Aundh Publishing Trust.

Ranganathan, S. R. 1948a. Classification and international documentation. The Hague: FID.

Ranganathan, S. R. 1948b. Preface to library science. Delhi: University of Delhi.

Ranganathan, S. R. 1948c. What is wrong with our adult education: Presidential address at the All India Adult Education Conference. Delhi: Indian Adult Education Association.

Ranganathan, S. R. 1949a. Education for leisure. 2nd ed. Delhi: Indian Adult Education Association.

Ranganathan, S. R. 1949b. Library development plan with a draft library bill for the United Provinces. Banaras: Varanashi Granthagar.

Ranganathan, S. R. 1949c. Library needs of renascent India. Nagpur: All India Library Conference.

Ranganathan, S. R. 1949d. Rural adult education. Delhi: Indian Adult Education Association.

Ranganathan, S.R. 1950a. Classification, coding and machinery for search. Paris: UNESCO.

Ranganathan, S. R. 1950b. Colon classification. 3rd ed. Madras: Madras Library Association.

Ranganathan, S. R. 1950c. Library catalogue: Fundamentals and procedure.

Ranganathan, S. R. 1950d. Library development plan, thirty-year programme for India with draft library bills for the union and the constituent states. Delhi: University of Delhi

Ranganathan, S. R. 1950e. Library tour 1948, Europe and America: Impressions and reflections. Delhi: Indian Library Association.

Ranganathan, S. R. ed. 1950f. Union catalogue of periodical publications in the libraries of South Asia: Pilot fascicule, mathematics and physics. Delhi: Indian Library Association.

Ranganathan, S. R. 1950g. University reform in contemporary India. Madras: Educational Review.

Ranganathan, S. R. 1951a. Classification and communication. Delhi: University of Delhi.

Ranganathan, S. R. 1951b. Classified catalogue code. 3rd ed. Madras: Madras Library Association.

Ranganathan, S. R. ed. 1951c. Indian library directory. 3rd ed. Delhi: Indian Library Association.

Ranganathan, S.R. and Sivaraman, K. M. 1951d. Library manual. Delhi: Indian Library Association

Ranganathan, S. R. 1951e. Philosophy of library classification. Copenhagen: Ejnar Munksgaard.

Ranganathan, S. R. ed. 1951f. Public library provision and documentation problems: Papers for discussion at All India Library Conference, May 1951. Delhi: Indian Library Association.

Ranganathan, S. R. 1952a. Colon classification. 4th ed. Madras: Madras Library Association.

Ranganathan, S. R. 1952b. Dictionary catalogue code. 2nd ed. Madras: Madras Library Association.

Ranganathan, S. R. 1952c. Library book selection. Delhi: Indian Library Association.

Ranganathan, S.R. 1952d. Social bibliography or physical bibliography for librarians. Delhi: University of Delhi.

Ranganathan, S. R. 1952e. Social education literature for authors, artists, publishers, teachers, librarians and governments. Delhi: Indian Adult Education Association.

Ranganathan, S. R. ed. 1953a. Depth classification and reference service and reference material: Papers for discussion at All India Library Conference 1953. Delhi: Indian Library Association.

Ranganathan, S. R. 1953b. Library legislation: Handbook to Madras Library Act. Madras: Madras Library Association.

Ranganathan, S. R. ed. 1953c. Literature for neo-literates, being report of the third national seminar of the Indian Adult Education Association. Delhi: Indian Adult Education Association.

Ranganathan, S. R. ed. 1953d. Union catalogue of learned periodical publications in South Asia. Vol. 1. Physical and biological sciences. Delhi: Indian Library Association.

Ranganathan, S. R. 1954. Education for leisure. 3rd ed. Delhi: Indian Adult Education Association.

Ranganathan, S. R. 1955. Heading and canons: Comparative study of five catalogue codes. Madras: S. Viswanathan.

Ranganathan, S.R. 1956. Organization of libraries in India. 2nd ed. Madras: Oxford University Press.

Ranganathan, S. R. 1957a. Colon classification: Volume 1, Basic classification. 5th ed. Madras: Madras Library Association.

Ranganathan, S.R. 1957b. Five laws of library science. 2nd ed. Madras: Madras Library Association.

Ranganathan, S.R. 1957c. Library science and scientific method. Madras: Madras Library Association.

Ranganathan, S. R.1957d. Prolegomena to library classification: with a foreword by W C B Sayers. 2nd ed. London: Library Association.

Ranganathan, S. R. 1958a. Classified catalogue code.4th ed. Madras: Madras Library Association.

Ranganathan, S. R. 1958b. Library personality and library bill: West Bengal. Calcutta: Bengal Library Association.

Ranganathan, S. R. 1958c. Library service in India and abroad: Speech on the occasion of the opening ceremony of the Marimalai Adigal Library on 24th August 1948. Madras: South India Saiva Siddhanta Sangam.

Ranganathan, S. R. 1958d. Twelfth Bengal Library Conference: Presidential address. Calcutta: Bengal Library Association.

Ranganathan, S. R. 1959a. Elements of library classification: based on lectures delivered to University of Bombay in December 1944 and in the Schools of librarianship in December 1956. 2nd ed. ed. B. I. Palmer. London: Association of Assistant Librarians. (Also published in India in 1960 by Asia Publishing House, Bombay)

Ranganathan, S. R. 1959b. Library administration. 2nd ed. Bombay: Asia Publishing House

Ranganathan, S. R. 1959c. “Pre-natal Classification and Cataloguing on its Way”. Annals of Library Science 6: 113-125

Ranganathan, S. R. 1960a. Colon classification: Basic classification. 6th ed. Bombay: Asia Publishing House.

Ranganathan, S. R. 1960b. Library development plan with a draft library bill for Kerala State. Trivandrum.

Ranganathan, S.R. 1960c. Library manual for library authorities, librarians and honorary library workers. 2nd ed. Bombay: Asia Publishing House.

Ranganathan, S.R. and Girija Kumar, ed.1960d. Social science research and libraries: Papers and summary proceedings of the Library Seminar on Research in the Social Sciences. Bombay: Asia Publishing House.

Ranganathan, S. R. and R. Muthukumaraswamy. 1961a. Commemoration bibliography of the first 1008 books published by the South India Saiva Siddhanta Works Publishing Society, Tinnevelly Ltd. Madras: The Society.

Ranganathan, S. R. 1961b. Education for leisure. 4th ed. Bombay: Asia Publishing House.

Ranganathan, Shiyali Ramamrita. 1961c. "Library classification on the march". In The Sayers Memorial Volume, eds. Douglas J Foskett and Bernard Ira Palmer. London: The Library Association, 72-95.

Ranganathan, S.R. 1961d. Reference service. 2nd ed. Bombay: Asia Publishing House.

Ranganathan, S. R. 1962. “International Conference on Cataloguing Principles, Paris 9-18 October 1961 and its findings”. Annals of library science 9: 15-38.

Ranganathan, S. R. 1964a. Classified catalogue code. 5th ed. Bombay: Asia Publishing House.

Ranganathan, Shiyali Ramamrita. 1964b. "Design of Depth Classification: Methodology". Library Science with a Slant to Documentation 1: 1-42.

Ranganathan, S. R. 1964c. “Subject Heading and Facet Analysis”. Journal of Documentation 20: 109-119

Ranganathan, S. R. 1965a. Colon Classification. New Brunswick, N.J.: Graduate School of Library Science, Rutgers State University. (Published in India in 1967 under the title Descriptive account of Colon Classification. Bombay: Asia Publishing House).

Ranganathan, S. R. 1967a. Elements of Library Classification. 3rd ed. Bombay: Asia Publishing House.

Ranganathan, S. R. 1967b. “Hidden Roots of Classification”. Information Storage & Retrieval 3: 399-410.

Ranganathan, S. R. 1967c. The organization of libraries. 3rd ed. London: Oxford University Press

Ranganathan, S. R. 1967d. Prolegomena to Library Classification. 3rd ed. assisted by M. A. Gopinath. Bombay: Asia Publishing House

Ranganathan, S. R. 1967e. Ramanujan, the man and the mathematician. Bombay: Asia Publishing House.

Ranganathan, S.R [et al], eds. 1968. Free book service for all: An international survey. Bombay: Asia Publishing House.

Ranganathan, S. R. 1969. “Colon Classification, edition 7 (1971): A preview”. Library Science with a Slant to Documentation 6: 193-242.

Ranganathan, S. R. 1987. Colon Classification. 7th ed. ed. M.A. Gopinath. Bangalore: Sarada Ranganathan Endowment for Library Science.

Ranganathan, S. R. 1992. A librarian looks back: an autobiography. New Delhi: ABC Publishing.

Ranganathan, S. R. 1995. “Librametry and its scope”. The International Journal of Scientometrics and Informetrics 1: 15-21.

Ranganathan, S. R. 1995. Library book selection, 2nd ed. New Delhi: Ess Ess Publishers for Sarada Ranganathan Endowment for Library Science.

Ranganathan, S. R. 2010. Colon Classification: Dwibindu Vargikarana. 7th rev. ed. Bangalore: Sarada Ranganathan Endowment for Library Science

Ranganathan, S. R. 2018. The Science and the Profession of Libraries: A Visionary’s Perspective (A collection of 20 papers). New Delhi: Ess Ess Publishers for Sarada Ranganathan Endowment for Library Science.

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