CHENNAI: “The noblest profession in the world is definitely farming but I believe a librarian’s job will come second. While one enriches the body, the other enriches the soul,” said 76-year-old Palam Kalyanasundaram, a librarian who has earned all his life only to give away.
He was at the MS Swaminathan Research Foundation’s (MSSRF) National Librarian Day celebration which is an annual event held in memory of S R Ranganathan, a mathematician and librarian who is said to be the Father of Library Science and Documentation in India.
A gold medallist in library science, Kalyanasundaram, who lost his father when he was one year old, said his most important lessons came from his mother.
“Don’t be greedy, give at least a part of your earnings to the needy, help a life every day; it doesn’t matter if it is a cow, a tree or a human. Do this and you will live like a king,” he said, recalling his mother’s three lessons.
Kalyanasundaram went several steps ahead. He said that he gave away every penny he had ever earned to the poor including his pension and also `30 crore he received along with the ‘Man of the Millennium’ award.
Has it worked?
“I was one of the two persons former US President Bill Clinton wanted to meet personally on his visit to India and superstar Rajinikanth has adopted me as his father,” he said, making the answer loud and clear.
MSSRF is a part of the International Network of Emerging Library Innovators (INELI), a project that has connected public librarians from over 18 states in the country.
“No matter what school children study, they should have access to libraries. Libraries can be the source of uncommon ideas,”said Prof. MS Swaminathan, Chairman of MSSRF, recalling an incident in which a young girl suggested the use of windmills on trains to generate a small amount of power, something she had read in a book.
The event was primarily aimed at exploring new avenues to strengthen the role of public libraries in accomplishing the UN’s SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals).
“Libraries are one of the few democratic spaces left today and librarians should know the community well enough to know what is relevant,” said Pilar Pacheco, Programme Officer at Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, who spoke via video-conference.
A dozen students from the Corporation school in Gandhigram in Besant Nagar participated in the event as part of the MSSRF’s ‘Every Child a Scientist’ programme that looks to give underprivileged students access to resources such as technology and libraries.