jnye at MIDWAY.UCHICAGO.EDU
Tue Nov 4 18:19:43 EST 1997
It is my sad duty to report the death of a friend and colleague, Mr.
P. Sankaralingam. A brief obituary follows.
Sankaralingam's energy, wisdom, and integrity has left an indelible
mark on the field of Tamil bibliography and preservation of Tamil culture.
In equal measure his humane life with friends and colleagues has left us in
deep sorrow over his passing.
A part of Sankaralingam's legacy is a well trained staff in care of
the Tamil collection at the Roja Muthiah Research Library. They are
carrying on well with the responsibilities entrusted to that Library.
Bibliographer for Southern Asia
University of Chicago
August 20, 1946 - October 26, 1997
Mr. P. Sankaralingam, a visionary librarian and gifted teacher who was
central in creation and leadership of the Roja Muthiah Research Library
(RMRL) in Madras, died on October 26 after suffering a massive heart attack
on October 23. He was 51.
Sankaralingam was the first Director of the Roja Muthiah Research
Library in Madras, a position he held since September 1993, when the
institution was founded. Prior to that appointment he was instrumental in
bringing together the forces necessary in India to ensure that the
collection of the late Roja Muthiah would be acquired and preserved for the
use of scholars. The University of Madras generously gave Sankaralingam a
leave of absence to accept the Directorship of RMRL. From 1976 he had been
a faculty member in the University's Department of Library and Information
Science, most recently as a Senior Lecturer. From 1968 through 1976, he
was Assistant Librarian at the Tirunelveli Medical College, Tirunelveli,
Tamil Nadu. His M.Lib.Sc. degree was from the University of Mysore in
The "New Library Movement in India" is the name Sankaralingam gave to
loosely confederated activities aimed at improving services and access to
collections for readers. He was a central figure shaping the movement in
south India. RMRL was workbench for framing and testing new approaches,
approaches that already have had a dramatic impact on the visibility and
organization of Tamil publications, from classical texts through less well
recognized modern literature.
Productive as a scholar, Sankaralingam publishing twenty-three papers
and preparing the indexes for eight books. From 1985-1991, he was joint
managing editor of the land-mark Kriyavin tarkalat Tamil akarati [A Tamil -
Tamil - English dictionary of contemporary Tamil] published by Cre-A: in
1992. He was also a joint editor of the 1992 publication, Cognitive
paradigms in knowledge organization. His translation into Tamil of David
Werner's Where there is no doctor appeared in 1984 as Taktar illata itattil
and remains a best seller.
Many of Sankaralingam's thirty-one students in the Masters in Library
and Information Science at the University of Madras have gone on to
positions of library leadership throughout India. He was revered by his
students as a gifted and demanding teacher who gave special attention to
the needs of students in financial need.
Other major projects and activities in which Sankaralingam took a
leading role include: a project for automation and reorganization of the
library of the Department of Indology, French Institute, Pondicherry; a
project to develop an information storage and retrieval system for the
audio and video recordings available in the Archives of All India Radio and
Doordarshan; and development of a morphological analyzer for Tamil. He was
a founding trustee of MOZHI, a public Trust for Resource Development in
Language and Culture, and held that position until becoming Director of
He is survived by his wife, Sankarammal, and two sons, Ranganathan and
Kartik. Letters of condolence may be sent to the family residence at:
74/10 Gem Flats; Anna Nagar Western Extension; Madras 600 050
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