By Kirupaimalar Hoole & S. Navaneethan –
Mrs. Srikanthaluxmy Sivanesan, nee Arulanantham, the Librarian at the University of Jaffna died of a heart attack, last month on Christmas day. Her death was sudden and again, a reminder that life is short and in dividing our energies we have to choose what is important and beneficial to the community. In that respect, our Librarian has done most of what she wanted to accomplish, within the short span of fifty-eight years that she was allowed. Her character was unique; she was dynamic, hard-working and courageous.
Srikanthaluxmy’s dedication to Information Science manifested itself in many ways. She saw the role of a librarian as an archivist, a collector, a documenter and an educator. As archivist, she worked to ensure that students and other users could easily access the material they wanted, while leaving them serendipitous finds of local treasures during a general browse; as collector, she went around collecting the strangest material from this area that reflected the local culture; as a documenter, she maintained blogs of Tamil poems; and as educator she worked with children to develop their reading habits. Of course, while playing all these roles, she passed on her skills as an academic. As mentioned, she maintained a Blog, http://karuththuunn.blogspot.com/. This is called Karuthoon, Conception. However, this was not her only literary contribution. She
has written 15 books and several papers on Information Science., that are of great value to the students in Library and Information Science as well as for the libraries to organise their collection. Her website speaks of her contributions https://sites.google.com/site/srikanthalaksmia
Srikanthaluxmy lived in Inuvil, near Jaffna. Being the eldest of seven, she leaves behind a loving and supportive husband, her mother and four siblings. Her alma mater was Ramanathan College, where she completed her schooling, followed by Jaffna University, where she graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Economics. Her passion and dedication to Information science was aroused and moulded during her postgraduate years at the Documentation Research and Training Centre (DRTC), Bangalore. It is significant that DRTC was founded by Dr S. R. Ranganathan, who is considered the father of Indian Information Science. Her training at the DRTC gave her the confidence to make the dramatic, but effective changes she made to the Jaffna University Library, which after her training she joined as Assistant Librarian in 1989.
There was an interim that began with the 1995 Jaffna offensive which resulted in disruptions to the University. Among the displaced she reorganised school libraries for their education and also carried out her research writings. However, she returned to the Library in 2002. In 2012 she was promoted to the post of Librarian where she remained until her sudden demise, when she was in charge of a team of 70 staff under her care, including staff in the branch libraries.
Srikanthaluxmy’s work has helped community and school based libraries classify, organize, and index their collections. She viewed libraries as an important and integral tool for knowledge-based social progress. She believed that library buildings do not mean much if the public does not access the books. This thought process led her to found the non-profit Foundation for Library Awareness with the aim of promoting reading amongst the public – particularly, amongst children and youth. Srikanthaluxmy’s dedication extended to associations for the exchange of lessons learned amongst Library professionals. For 10 years, she was the president of the Foundation for Library Awareness, popularly known by the acronym ‘FOLA”, a non-governmental organization intended to promote reading from grass-root level. Her involvements are yet another window into her views that testified to her dedication and social responsibility.
Her contribution to education in the region’s schools through exhibitions and reading promotion, is invaluable. One of her favourite spaces, in her exhibitions, was assigned to ‘Know your Role Model’ displaying quotations, from eminent persons who changed the world, be it from religious philosophers or social reformers to persons in diverse walks of life. They included persons ranging from Swami Viekanantha and Gandhi, to Albert Einstein. Role models close to her heart span the remarkable set of persons she worked with or whose counsel she valued, from Prof. K. Sivathamby to A.J. Canagaratna; and not least, Prof. V. Tharmaratnam. She collected their biographies for students and academics to get to know them.
Through her actions and writings she herself has become a role model to many of us. We wish the students who pass out from this University would regard many of our academics as having been role models. Let us make up our minds to rise up to that standard, as a means of paying tribute to Srikanthaluxmy, laying aside less important considerations. She had been tough as she was vulnerable in trying to uphold the traditions of librarianship.
In order to do justice to her, we must endeavour to make her live. Her writings and documents she left behind will continue to speak of her vision and how she stood up for healthy values and to the challenges she encountered. There is no doubt that Srikanthaluxmy dedicated her life to her ideals. On the other hand, we, her friends, believe that her commitment, her excessive commitment, to her passions took their toll
We are all prisoners of our times. The war resulted in various forces trying to manipulate the University and to ensure that it remained a mediocre and pliant institution that served their ends. Being committed to the quality of the Library, Srikanthalakshmi tried, to overcome these obstacles and was sometimes driven into confrontations she did not seek. Srikanthalakshmy believed that the Library was part and parcel of the intellectual health of the University. She urged that the librarians must be conversant in all areas of its intellectual endeavour and work with scholars to actively contribute to its advancement. This goal cannot be attained without a keen interest on the part of a wide spectrum of scholars.