Re: T.B. Rajashekar, Indian Open Access Pioneer: 1954-2005

From: Subbiah Arunachalam <subbiah_a_at_YAHOO.COM>
Date: Tue, 14 Jun 2005 15:38:59 +0100

Dr T B Rajashekar - A Tribute

Dr Tarikere Basappa Rajashekar, who was the Associate
Chairman of the National Centre for Science
Information (NCSI) at the Indian Institute of Science,
Bangalore, was killed in a road accident near
Bangalore on 3 June 2005.

Raja, as he was known to his close friends, was an
achiever. When many others were talking about digital
libraries, he started working on building one. He was
clear in what he wanted to do and he went about it
with dedication and commitment and what is more he
knew his limitations and never attempted to do
anything in which he did not have the required
expertise. He was serious about his work and never
would waste his time or energy in fruitless pursuits.

When new technologies came in quick succession and
transformed the way we handle information, Raja was
quick to learn those technologies and apply them
intelligently in the areas of database management and
information dissemination.

Raja’s role in the creation of the Nation’s first
computerized current awareness service in the early
1980s at NCSI is commendable. He was one of the
earliest in India to use COBOL and database, in both
of which he had a rich experience and knowledge, in
library applications. He had an exemplary skill in
programming and an innate ability to understand, apply
and disseminate newer programming paradigms to stay
current all the time.

Right from the early days of NCSI, Raja not only led
the young team from the front with his insistence on
discipline and timely delivery of quality services but
also played a key role in capacity building. He was
largely responsible for the content and curriculum of
the 18-month training programme on information and
knowledge management at NCSI, which is unlike any
other programme taught anywhere else in India. The
curriculum always reflected the most recent
developments. Not only did he teach the key courses
(information and knowledge organization, digital
library and information services in enterprises,
internet information resources and services) but also
helped his younger colleagues to acquire the skills to
teach state-of-the-art courses. Many of the
professionals trained by him occupy important
positions across the country and elsewhere and have
been contributing immensely to the growth of
information science. The fact that they stayed in
touch with him and continue to hold him in reverence,
vindicates the fact that Raja was not only a great and
inspiring guru but also a fine gentleman. Raja had
become synonymous with NCSI.

Raja set up India’s first interoperable institutional
open access archive, but was dismayed at the rather
slow pace at which it was filling. When it was pointed
out that he should be more proactive and meet with
faculty and talk to them about the archive, he took
the suggestion in the right spirit and at the time of
his tragic death there were more than 2,000 papers in
the archive. He had conducted many training programmes
on setting up open access archives. Raja was also
largely responsible for marrying the Greenstone
digital library software with an earlier version of
the Eprints software (when the latter did not support
full-text searching), and a few months before his
death he and his colleague Francis Jayakanth, in
collaboration with researchers at the Old Dominican
University, developed two approaches to make CDS-ISIS
databases OAI compliant. Raja was also the first in
India to set up an e-mail based electronic discussion
forum for the library and information science (LIS)
professionals. Since its inception in 1994, he
moderated the LIS-Forum democratically.

Born on 2 November 1954, Raja took his bachelor’s
degree in library science from the Mysore University
and the postgraduate Associateship in documentation
and information science from the Documentation
Research and Training Centre, Bangalore. After a few
years at the National Informatics Centre, New Delhi,
he had a brief stint at the British Council Library in
New Delhi, where he impressed everyone with his
technical savvy. It is then he moved to the Indian
Institute of Science, Bangalore, and worked quietly
and earned a reputation as a performer. Along the way
he also took a doctoral degree from the Poona

A very shy person, Raja would keep himself away from
the limelight. Deeply committed to his family, when he
took a sabbatical in 2000 he did not move out of
Bangalore. He worked for Informatics (India) Ltd, a
Bangalore-based company, and developed an excellent
multidisciplinary current awareness tool, an e-journal
portal and gateway called J-Gate, to aggregate
thousands of journals. He also wrote a series of
essays on digital libraries.

Raja was on many committees, including the CODATA, and
had contributed to the development of INFLIBNET and
INDEST. He was also elected Fellow of the Society of
Information Science (India).

When he was on course to achieve much more, fate has
snatched him away from us. The large number of
condolence messages received from within the country
and elsewhere is an indication of the regard he had
earned. Once he remarked to his students, what
mattered in life was what one left behind for others
to remember and continue. By that yardstick he has
done extremely well. The best tribute the LIS
professionals in this country could pay to Raja is to
set up institutional open access archives as soon as
possible and fill them with papers, modernize their
curricula and teach their students the values
practiced by him.

Subbiah Arunachalam & N Balakrishnan

Subbiah Arunachalam is Distinguished Fellow, M S
Swaminathan Research Foundation, Chennai 600 113,

N Balakrishnan is Chairman, Information Sciences
Division, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore 560
012, India

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Received on Tue Jun 14 2005 - 15:38:59 BST

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