B. S. Kesavan: biography in brief
- Mr. B.S. Kesavan was a pioneer institution builder and was responsible for many initiatives inluding the creation of the Indian National Bibliography and for re-housing the National Library into the Viceregal palace, Belvedere at Kolkatta. He had a pre-eminent role in carving a niche for the National Library as a model for national libraries in the S. and S. E. Asian regionṣ. A new multi-storey building to accomodate the growing collection of the National Library was built during his tenure as National Librarian.
- It was during his tenure as National Librarian that he pioneered the passing of the The Delivery of Books Act 1954 in the Indian Parliament to ensure that books published in India in all Indian and other languages find a place in the National Library, Kolkatta and three other libraries. Under this act all publishers in India are mandated to send one copy of each book they publish. The Act was amended in 1956 to include periodicals and newspapers. The Indian National Bibliography is compiled on the receipt of books under the Delivery of Books Act at the National Library, Kolkata.
- The Indian National Scientific Documentation Centre (INSDOC) of which he became the first Director became a centre to provide valuable information and documentation services to the scientific community of the country. It became a model for similar centres in other developing countries as well. He also was responsible for conceptualizing, planning and implementing a post-graduate training programme in documentation and information retrieval. The training programme was called the Associateship in Library and Documentation and was later recognized as equivalent to a Masters degree in Library, Documentation and Information Science. The Alumni from the Associateship programme have occupied prime leadership positions in prestigeous national and international libraries and information centres in India and overseas.
- Mr . Kesavan was awarded the prestigeous Padma Shri award in 1960 for his contribution to and leadership work at the National Library, Kolakatta.
- He began his career as a teacher of English at the Maharajas College, Mysore University, India. He earned a name for himself as a passionate lover of languages before he went on to adorn the profession of librarianship. He was teacher to a generation of well-known Administrators, and artists. Mr R K Laxman the cartoonist, Mr Sarada Prasad who was Press Secretary to prime ministers Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi were Mr Kesavan's students. So also was the Veena Maestro Doreswamy Iyengar. [Note: an interesting episode involving the Veena Maestro and Kesavan may be read in the book produced by KIIKM on the ocassion of Mr Kesavans birth centenary in 2009. The book titled, "B S Kesavan: the Man and his Vision" may be downloaded from the link given under the Publications Menu.]
- He was a speaker par excellence. He held his audiences spell bound with words that seemed to gush out as spontaneously as from a natural spring. As a teacher, he inspired students with his dramatic gestures, his sense of humour and by the committment and love he exuded for the subject. One of his favourite subjects was Physical Bibliography.
- Mr Kesavan's first love was the National Library which he nourished even as a mother would her beloved chilḍ.The esteem and affection with which he was held by his colleagues was exceptional although he was a task master and his demands for excellence in work. Many youngsters who joined the National Library fresh from college learnt of the importance of the 'user' of a library by the exemplary manner with which Mr Kesavan himself conducted himself with users of all kinds: children, the elderly, the rich and famous, the less fortunate, the hesitant with the same concern and care that made him so well-known as a true humanist in his beloved city of Kokatta. He was indeed a role model not only to his colleagues but for many who had the good fortune of brushing shoulders with him. Legend has it that Dṛ B C Roy, Chief Minister of West Bengal would often call upon Mr Kesavan for information and help.
- He was fortunate in having as his willing allies scholar statesmen rk and had manylike the great Maulana Abul Kalam Azad who was Minister for Education in Independent India at that time and Dr Humayun Kabir. It is said that during the construction of the National Library's new buildings, he went straight to the hugh and mighty to overcome beauracratic hurdleṣ whenever problems arose.
- Mr Kesavan traveled widely in the course of his work and had many admirers in the libraries of the countries he visited to attend conferences, chair sessions or deliver lectureṣ.
- Above all, Mr Kesavan was a dynamic leader of men, a warm human being and a mentor to many young minds whom he lovingly nurtured and imbued in the human and professional values that were dear to him.
- After retirement he authored 4 painstakingly researched volumes on the History of Printing and Publishing in India when he was well past his 80th birthday. He is fondly remembered by his accociates, students and admirers as a warm human being, a hard perfectionist but with an unique touch.
- During his active service life, Mr Kesavan contributed his knowledge and experience to national and international fora such as the International Federation of Library Associations (IFLA), International Federation of Documentation (FID) and to national committees of the University Grants Commission (UGC), Ministry of Education and several Universities in India. After retirement, his services were used by UNESCO and WHO in library projects.
Kesavan Institute of Information and Knowledge Management