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Friday, Feb 20, 2004

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Information studies

B. S. Raghavan

IT is inevitable that knowledge society should draw heavily on information architecture.

The latter, in turn, depends for its visual, conceptual and intellectual impact on a balanced mix of technology, substance, style, access and location. Information studies serve as an enduring cementing force binding all these ingredients.

From this standpoint, the setting up of the Ranganathan Centre for Information Studies (RCIS) at Chennai some years ago could only be described as an inspired move, for which the stimulus was provided by C. Subramaniam. Under the guidance of Dr M. S. Swaminathan, as Chairman, and Dr M. Anandakrishnan, as the Vice-Chairman, and through its celebrated journal Information Studies, it has been contributing to the awareness of the almost limitless scope and reach of information and communication technologies as the accelerator of overall development.

The emphasis the Centre places on indigenously generated, processed and disseminated information and information systems to fulfil local, national and global needs covering all sections of the population makes it the only one of its kind.

In this vital sense, the name of the Centre fittingly consecrates the memory of the first of the information architects, S. R. Ranganathan, who has been acknowledged worldwide as the greatest librarian of the 20th century. Dr Mike Steckel of International Sematech, who worships him, is positive that no one else even comes close, and adds: "His ideas influenced every aspect of library science (a term he is credited with coining), and because he was such a complete and systematic thinker, he was gifted in the development of all areas of the field, including theory, practice, and management."

Another disciple writes: "There had not been a day of the life of Ranganathan when he did not breathe, think, talk, and even dream of librarianship and library science... He spent two decades as librarian of Madras University. Never did he take any vacations during this period. He spent 13 hours every day for seven days a week on the premises of the library." He wrote a total of 62 books — all in the evenings, during his off hours.

Ranganathan's axioms governing the use of books and the objectives of libraries, amazingly anticipate the emergence of the knowledge society and the ubiquitous role of information in making it possible.

It should please all admirers of this great innovator and intellectual giant no end that the RCIS is keeping faith with his noble ideals and precepts. Its efforts to involve the students and youth are particularly laudable, as they are the torch-bearers of the many-splendoured era in the offing.

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