Published: 17th October 2017
In Digital India, Sujai G Pillai is going analogue: He's building One Library Per Village and it's working wonders for the rural populace
OLPV's library offers online courses that can be accessed by students from any background and area for world-class lessons
When Sujai G Pillai discovered that people in his small village in Kollam had the desire to learn but did not have the opportunity due to the lack of a proper library, he created the non-governmental organisation, One Library Per Village (OLPV) as a knowledge sharing centre where students could use the resources to study. Today, he hopes to spread the initiative across the country with the help of the government and a ton of goodwill.
How important were libraries to you as a child?
I grew up in a very remote village. In our school days, we would all gather for celebrations and discussions at the local library, it was a huge part of our community and I think I understood that even as a child. And it was only about seven years ago that this culture began to change with television and other distractions.
What is the major challenge in this ‘post-library’ world?
Technology has become an unavoidable staple in our lives. I noticed that people were faced with these wonders of innovation and they did not know how to use it. This is where our government has failed. Because adult education was almost entirely ignored, people do not possess the specific knowledge that is necessary to handle technology. So even the literate continue to be illiterate when it comes to technology.
The team introduced 'The book bucket challenge' which encouraged people to donate books to the needy and to raise funds to set up libraries
What is the first step that can be taken to improve adult education?
Initially, I would provide a small space in my house where people would come and practice using laptops. Studies have found that even little children can easily master technology if they are given enough face-time with it. Later I kept one or two systems in the village library.
How did the idea behind One Library Per Village strike you?
It all came to me because of what I saw in the village where I, myself, had grown up. Digital literacy in India is alarmingly low and I could see it right in front of my eyes. And the worst part is that people want to learn, but the necessary resources were limited to big cities. So I decided that libraries were the place to start. People from the ages of 25-60 could come together in their local libraries and learn using resources that they all collectively own and share.
Lend well: The library is a knowledge sharing centre that allows kids a time out to study and read
We must identify the specific needs of local schools and make them a creative space where debate and dialogue are encouraged more than mere rote learning and securing marks blindly
Sujai G Pillai, Founder, One Library Per Village
Will you be taking this idea further?
I have introduced a proposal to the Department of Information Technology to introduce a proper house-wise program across villages in the country. To make educating oneself even easier, I have created a website called 2tion.com. It is a social network platform for collaborative learning where students can register freely and get matched to the subject of their choice.
Can the average library survive more innovation?
A library was never just a pile of books. Even in ancient Greece, these books surrounded people having intellectual discussions. It should be a collaborative space where people can interact, learn and discover information continuously. If it doesn’t feed our curiosity, then it will not survive. So we cannot move backwards.
What is the change that you wish to see in our education system and general school culture?
Most students attend school only with the hope of finding a job, not to gain knowledge. We must start by changing the age-based system that all schools follow. Instead, we must focus on a person’s mental age.