13 August, 2020

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Uniqueness Of Srikanthaluxmy Arulanantham, Late Librarian, University Of Jaffna: Librarianship Amidst The Ashes Of War

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.  

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Latest comments

  • 22
    0

    Many thanks for this piece. I have not come across her (or her work) before. Just looked through her blog — beautiful writings!

  • 9
    0

    Thank You for this beautiful tribute to someone who was obviously a valued and respected colleague. Many like Srikanthaluxmy Arulanantham are the unsung heroes of our institutions who are often the wind beneath our wings. May she rest in peace.

  • 13
    0

    I am very sorry to hear about Luxmy’s passing. I first met her in 2015 when I was in Jaffna for the launch of Palmyra Fallen: from Rajini to war’s end. Both events were due to be held at the University of Jaffna, but the then VC refused permission. Luxmy insisted on holding the book launch at the UoJ Library Auditorium, arguing that such events were part of the library’s role. I was in awe of the spirited way in which she made her case and hosted the launch with aplomb. We were in touch on and off since then. Her passing is such a loss – we are badly in need of people with her spirit and courage in our university system.

  • 6
    0

    Thank you for telling us about Srikanthalakshmy. Jaffna University was blessed to have been served by such a librarian — a profession that I also loved.
    It is amazing that such a splendid person stayed on to serve her people and was not lost to the brain drain in those difficult years.

  • 4
    0

    Never met, or knew the lady . She seems to have been a highly motivated lady of integrity, determination , and courage . Sadly , she has been taken away from us at a relatively young age , when she had so much more to offer . May she rest in peace and may her loved ones find strength to cope with their tragic loss .

  • 6
    1

    May her soul rest in peace

  • 4
    0

    It is lovely, despite the sadness of the occasion, to read something like this.

    (I do not personally know Mrs Sivenesan-Arulantham nor the authors of this eulogy.)

  • 6
    0

    Srikanthaluxmy faced so from the Jaffna University dons. As far as know, she faced so much pressure from the VCs & registrars from day one on her job. Prof. V. Tharmaratnam, the only straight-forward academic in the history of University of Jaffna, helped her ward off the challenges created by the nasty crowd inside the Uni. One VC arbitrarily stopped her salary as punishment, another made a false allgegation by writing to the UGC that she was an LTTE member and another woman VC delayed the confirmation of her post of librarian for more than a year for no reason. She had to put up a fight with the uni admn even to request a vehicle for official duties. A person of Srikanthaluxmy’s sturture would always find difficult to survive in a jungle like Jaffna Uni. filled with selfish people. I can daresay those selfish people slayed Srikanthaluxmy with their insatiable hunger for corruption. Srikanthaluxmy could have done more valuable contribution to the society & to the field of informatuon science, had she received even a minimum level of support from the administrators. May her soul rest in peace.

    • 5
      0

      How fortunate for Jaffna University
      that Srikanthalakshmy stayed on despite all the harrassment. Someone with her abilities and integrity could so easily have found employment abroad.

  • 5
    0

    I have not seen her but understand her loss is insurmountable.But the hard fact is that She is no more with us in person.
    She had taken with her memories of her triumphs and tribulations loaded with vital good, bad, and bitter experiences she had to undergo as a member of the Tamil community in Sri Lanka.

    I wish her bereaved relatives and friends soon overcome her loss .

    May her Soul Rest in Peace

  • 6
    0

    May her name be remembered well at the UoJ.

    There was a time when people at the Jaffna uni were hostile or scared to talk to members of a particular family. This lady was so openly welcoming when I needed to use the library once. She had a perpetual smile and what Hindus would call the luxmy face. She knew so much about where to find the rare articles in my list. All the while she was smiling, an act Jaffna people have long lost because of the times. I felt like I had a friend at UoJ. It is not surprising UoJ takes its toll on people who stand up for academic freedom.

    I can imagine how pleasant and welcoming the library would have felt with her there.

  • 4
    0

    Untimely departure of such a person who can contribute to build up trust between the communities that are falling apart is an irreparable loss.

  • 0
    0

    Dear Kirupaimalar Hoole,
    .
    I saw this article as it appeared,
    and I knew that it was my “duty” to respond to it, but it was only on Wednesday (23rd) morning that I finally read it carefully.
    .
    It is a moving tribute. The theme running through it is that our stay on Earth is brief, and that whatever good we want to do, we must do here and now. All you librarians are self-effacing people, and your article is proof that the team in the library works hard and harmoniously.
    .
    Well, I had a longish chat with you in the “early evening” with Rajan being away. As you told me, “Rajan is unique”. That was in the context of “Thomian bad habits” as exemplified by the non-Thomian Bishop Dhilo. No, I haven’t yet succeeded in speaking to Dhilo.
    .
    What Rajan told me during the 8.30 pm chat that I had with him was that you had told him “everything”. But then I told him that I “complained to Kirupa” that those missionary fellows hadn’t taught us “everything that they knew”. Specifically, Dr R.L Hayman (later awarded an MBE by the Queen) hadn’t taught us about microwave ovens before he left our College in 1963. I tried to tell him that when it became clear that you hadn’t told him about how I had been attacked by leeches when I went out to dump the kitchen garbage in the compost bin.
    .
    tbc

  • 0
    0

    PART TWO
    .
    Rajan just didn’t want to hear
    about how I had microwaved to death the two leeches. What would he have done? My friend, Dr Fazal Sultanbawa used to have the oddest pets. He kept leeches for some time. He used to shift the place on which he used to feed them, day by day. Always on his body, obviously. He reports that he saw immense gratitude towards him, and they loved him and were devoted to him.
    .
    Please ascertain Rajan’s response to that report of the doings of the son of Professor M.U.S. Sultanbawa.
    .
    To get back to Mrs Arulanantham, I hope that all those Sinhalese (not many) who seek to inspire dissension in Jaffna will note that Srikanthaluxmy was a Hindu. It is only a handful of people who are up to mischief of all sorts. May Rajan and you, dedicated peaceniks, soon begin to discern buds on the trees that foretell partly at least, that the fruit of your efforts will appear “one fine day”.

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