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Ranganathan Science Library

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: General Studies
Wordcount: 3178 words Published: 25th Apr 2017

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  • Brief overview of Ranganathan's life

According to Gopinath, in Memorabilia Ranganathan, Shiyali Ramamrita Ranganathan, often referred to as S. R. Ranganathan, was born August 9, 1892 in Tamil Nadu, in southern India. He lost his father early in childhood, and he also married his first wife at a young age. Ranganathan and his second wife had one child. After a long, impressive career, Ranganathan died at the age of 80 on September 27, 1972.

  • Education and career

Documentation Research and Training Centre, 1962 http://www.isibang.ac.in/library/portal/Pages/photo.htm

Ranganathan as a student, 1913 http://www.isibang.ac.in/library/portal/Pages/photo.htm

Leaving Mathematics and teaching had not been easy for SRR. His colleagues and the principal had given him great moral support. The year was 1924. http://www.isibang.ac.in/library/portal/Pages/photo.htm

Before Ranganathan influenced the world of library science (he is said to have coined the term), he earned his Master's degree in Mathematics and a degree from a teacher's college. From 1917 to 1921, he retained a position at Presidency College in Madras, India, teaching math and physics. According to Gopinath, students loved Ranganathan's lively teaching style and often applauded after his lectures. When a better paying library position opened at the Madras University Library, Ranganathan reluctantly applied and, with no previous library education or experience, was surprisingly accepted. After a week, out of boredom he tried to resign. Instead, he was sent to London for nine months where he learned library science and began to design his own classification scheme, among other concepts that he later wrote about, including his Five Laws of Library Science. He stayed at Madras University until 1945, after reorganizing the library, creating a library science school, and influencing much of southern India. After his so-called retirement, he went to Banaras Hindu University and Dehli University, created and served on numerous professional committees and boards, as well as promoting public library legislation. From 1954-1957, Ranganathan stayed in Zurich, where he continued his work in library science. Then he went to Bangalore where “the pinnacle of…his entire life was…the founding of the Documentation Research and Training Centre under the auspices of the Indian Statistical Institute” (p. 2423). This institute exists today offering courses and degrees in information and library science (see drtc.isibang.ac.in/ for more information).

  • Major contribution to librarianship

S. R. Ranganathan, also known as the Father of Indian Librarianship, contributed more than 60 books and over 1,500 articles. He wrote on library management, book selection, reference service, library buildings and furniture, and the “chain procedure to deriving subject index entries” (Gopinath, 2003, p.2427), among other topics. But, one of his biggest contributions to librarianship was his “Five laws of library science” that continues to be a guide for library management and operation today.

1. Books are for use.

2. Every reader his/her book.

3. Every book its readers.

4. Save the time of the reader; save the time of the library staff.

5. The library is a growing organism.

These five ideas shape many aspects of libraries. The following ideas derived from Ranganathan's five laws are presented in a lecture from Atherton (1973) that she gave at the Documentation Research and Training Centre in Bangalore: Readers should know what information is available; libraries should know what their readers want; readers should have access to library material, catalog searches should lead the reader to their desired material; the organization systems of a library should be designed for efficiency; as information grows, so do libraries. All of these laws persist in importance in terms of the mission of the library and the services it provides for its patrons. Various versions of the five laws of library science can be seen in

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As electronic information becomes more pervasive, these laws still apply as an over-arching philosophy and guide to connecting patrons with information. Yet “new violations have emerged” with the growth of the web and other online resources (Cloonan & Dove, 2005, p.59). Information architects and other information scientists look to Ranganathan's ideas (Steckel, 2002). In 2004, Noruzi published a set for the Web:

  • Web resources are for use.
  • Every user his or her web resource.
  • Every web resource its user.
  • Save the time of the user.
  • The Web is a growing organism.

These modern challenges to maintain the ideals of library science are the major working in the fields of information and library sciences.

  • Major contribution to cataloging

S. R. Ranganathan's most important contribution to cataloging was his Colon Classification scheme.

Three main types of classification used are enumerative, as is the Library of Congress Classification, in that it “attempts to assign designations for all the single and composite concepts required in the system”; hierarchical, as mostly describes the Dewey Decimal Classification scheme; and faceted classification that confine their explicit lists of designations to single, unsubdivided concepts” (Taylor, 2006, p. 393).

Facets are aspects of the book (or any information object) that can be used as an area for classification. In Ranganathan's Colon Classification scheme, he determined there were five facets: personality, matter, energy, space, time that are “used to analyze a class or subject and to construct a composite class notation for it” (p. 395). In the PMEST formula, each facet is separated by different punctuation marks and informs which type of facet is coming next:

, (comma)personality

; (semicolon)matter

: (colon)energy

. (period)space

‘ (apostrophe)time

Taylor (p.395) gives the example of notation for a book on “the eradication of virus in rice plants in Japan, 1971” as J , 381 ; 4 : 5 . 42 ‘ N70…The breakdown of the notation is:

Jagriculture(main subject)

381rice plant(personality)

4virus disease(matter)




Considered “analytic-synthetic

How does it compare to Dewey?

Less biased

Better for classifying complex items, new subjects

“does not assign fixed slots to subjects in sequence” (p. 394).

  • Current use of Colon Classification

The faceted approach of Colon Classification makes it ideal for computer use. Faceted class notation “is especially important for online retrieval…as a complement to verbal retrieval methods y subject headings or keywords.” (p. 396) Because facets are used, as opposed to hierarchy, a user can easily search by facets. “Rather than deciding ahead of time what the ‘proper' trees, the computer can construct a tree on the fly based on the user's interaction” (Weinberger, 2007, p. 81). The users begin the search with one facet and then narrow it with other facets. “The result is a system that lets [the users] become data squirrels, jumping from branch to branch” (Weinberger, 2007, p. 81), with new branches being created by the users' queries. As explained by Glassel (1998), “each term in a Yahoo! notation string contains individual words which have meaning on their own, but once combined with other words into a string, a context is created, providing a deeper meaning. In this way it is much like a faceted classification” (¶ 11). Here is an example of how the classification of a book based on its facets can easily migrate to a search engine. Using a book's subjects: "Research in the cure of the tuberculosis of lungs by x-ray conducted in India in 1950s," the CC notation is L,45;421:6;253:f.44'N5. And as words, the notation is translated as: Medicine,Lungs;Tuberculosis:Treatment;X-ray:Research.India'1950 (Chan, 1994, p.391). This translation are keywords in a search that, if matched to controlled subject headings would likely result in positive hits.

  • Annotated bibliography of Ranganathan's principle works.

Ranganathan, S. R. (1933). Colon Classification. Madras: Madras Library Association. (1st edition).

An introduction to the colon classification system using five facets (personality, matter, energy, space, and time)

Ranganathan, S. R. (1962). Elements of Library Classification. Bombay: Asia Publishing House.

Ranganathan, S.R. (1963). Colon classification : basic classification (6th ed.). New York: Asia Publishing House.

Ranganathan, S.R. (1963). The five laws of library science (2nd ed.). New York: Asia Publishing House.

Introduction to his five deceptively and elegantly simple “laws of library science” that affect every aspect of the library. User-centered approach

Ranganathan, S.R. (1967). Prolegomena to library classification (3rd ed.). London: Asia Publishing House.

640-page book rules and guidelines

  • Timeline

Dewey born (1851) LCC developed (1852)

Colon Class. designed (1924) 5 Laws of LS (1928)

Ranganathan dies (1972)







DDC developed (1876) Ranganathan born (1892)

Dewey dies (1931)

CC, LC, and DD class. systems modified, still used

Appendix A


1.     Canons for Characteristics

a)      Canon of Differentiation

b)     Canon of Relevance

c)      Canon of Ascertainability

d)     Canon of Permanence

2.     Canons for Succession of Characteristics

a)      Canon of Concomitance

b)     Canon of Relevant Succession

c)      Canon of Consistent Succession

3.     Canons for Array

a)      Canon of Exhaustiveness

b)     Canon of Exclusiveness

c)      Canon of Helpful Sequence

4.     Canons for Chain

a)      Canon of Decreasing Extension

b)     Canon of Modulation

d)     Canon of Consistent Sequence

5.     Canons for Filiatory Sequence

a)      Canon of Subordinate Classes

b)     Canon of Coordinate Classes


1.     Canon of Context

2.     Canon of Enumeration

3.     Canon of Currency

4.     Canon of Reticence


1.     Canon of  Synonym

2.     Canon of Homonym

3.     Canon of Relativity

4.     Canon of Uniformity

5.     Canon of Hierarchy

6.     Canon of Non-Hierarchy

7.     Canon of Mixed Base

8.     Canon of Pure Base

9.     Canon of Faceted Notation

10. Canon of Non-Faceted Notation

11. Canon of Co-Extensiveness

12. Canon of Under-Extensiveness


1.     Canon of Alphabetical Mnemonics

2.     Canon of Systematic Mnemonics

3.     Canon of Seminal Mnemonics


1.     Principle of Later-in-Time

2.     Principle of Later-in-Evolution

3.     Principles of Spatial Contiguity

a)      Principle of Bottom Upwards

b)     Principle of Top Downwards

c)      Principle of Left to Right

d)     Principle of Clockwise Direction

e)      Principle of Counter-Clockwise Direction

f)      Principle of Periphery to Centre

g)     Principle of Centre to Periphery

4.     Principles of Quantitative Measure

a)      Principle of Increasing Quantity

b)     Principle of Decreasing Quantity

5.     Principle of Increasing Complexity

6.     Principle of Canonical Sequence

7.     Principle of Literary Warrant

8.     Principle of Alphabetical Sequence


1.     Postulate of Five Fundamental Categories

2.     Postulate of Basic Facet

3.     Postulate of Isolate Facet

4.     Postulates for Rounds of Manifestation

a)      Postulate of Rounds for Energy

b)     Postulate of Rounds for Personality and Matter

c)      Postulate of Rounds for Space and Time

5.     Postulates for Levels of Manifestation

a)      Postulate of Level

6.     Postulates for Facets

a)      Postulate of First Facet

b)     Postulate of Concreteness

c)      Postulate of Facet Sequence Within a Round

d)     Postulate of Facet Sequence Within the Last Round

e)      Postulate of a Level Cluster


1.     Wall-Picture Sequence

2.     Whole-Organ Principle

3.     Cow-Calf Principle

4.     Act and-Action-Actor-Tool Principle


Atherton, P. (1973). Putting knowledge to work: An American view of Ranganathan's five laws of library science. Dehli: Vikas Publishing House.

Chan L. M. (1994). Cataloging and classification: An introduction (2nd ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill.

Cloonan, M.V., & Dove, J.G. (2005, April 1). Ranganathan Online. Library Journal, 130(6), pp. 58-60. Retrieved on July 22, 2008, from http://web.ebscohost.com/ehost/pdf?vid=9&hid=103&sid=3d1ade8a-3357-4c16-8584-676fda875d4d%40sessionmgr9

Garfield, E. (1984, February 6). A tribute to S. R. Ranganathan, the Father of Indian library science: Part I life and works. Current Comments, 6, 37-43. Retrieved on July 21, 2008, from http://www.garfield.library.upenn.edu/essays/v7p045y1984.pdf

Glassel, A. (1998). Was Ranganathan a Yahoo!? End User's Corner. Retrieved July 21, 2008, from http://scout.wisc.edu/Projects/PastProjects/toolkit/enduser/archive/1998/euc-9803.html

Gopinath, M.A. (Ed.) (1994), Memorabilia Ranganathan. Bangalore: Sarada Ranganathan Endowment for Library Science.

Gopinath, M.A. (2003). Ranganathan, Shiyali Ramamrita. In M. A. Drake (Ed.) Encyclopedia of Library and Information Science (2nd ed.) (pp. 2419-2437). New York: Marcel Dekker.

Noruzi, A. (2004). Application of Ranganathan's Laws to the Web. Webology, 1(2). Retrieved July 21, 2008, from http://www.webology.ir/2004/v1n2/a8.html

Spiteri, L. (1998). A simplified model for facet analysis. Canadian Journal of Information and Library Science, 23, pp. 1-30. Retrieved July 22, 2008, from http://iainstitute.org/pg/a_simplified_model_for_facet_analysis.php

Stekel, M. (2002, October 7). Ranganathan for IAs : An introduction to the thought of S.R. Ranganathan for information architects. Boxes And Arrows. Retrieved July 21, 2008, from http://www.boxesandarrows.com/view/ranganathan_for_ias

Taylor, A. G. (2006). Introduction to cataloging and classification (10th ed.). Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited.

Weinberger, D. (2007). Everything is miscellaneous: The power of the new digital disorder. New York: Henry Holt and Company.

July 16, 2008, 11:23 AM, Erin M. O'Toole, recommended in an email to use the following resources:

  • LIS encyclopedias and dictionaries
  • online reference works available in the LIS Subject Guide at http://www.library.unt.edu/research-tools/subject-guides/library-information-science/electronic-resources/dictionaries-encyclopedias
  • the UNT Library Catalog at http://iii.library.unt.edu
  • the 3 LIS databases listed in a row starting with Library and Information Science Abstracts (LISA) on this webpage: http://irservices.library.unt.edu/ais.cfm?alpha=L
  • favorite search engine and keyword
  • Google Images Search at http://images.google.com


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