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Saturday, June 10, 2017

Dustbin man builds free library of thrown away books.

By Sean Coughlan, BBC Education correspondent

6 June 2017

A dustbin man in Bogota in Colombia, who never studied further than primary school, has gathered a library of more than 20,000 thrown away books. The collection began 20 years ago, when Jose Alberto Gutierrez fished out a discarded copy of Tolstoy's novel Anna Karenina. He now offers his books to other people as a free community library. "I realised that people were throwing books away in the rubbish. I started to rescue them," he said. Mr Gutierrez, who has gained the nickname The Lord of the Books, began collecting books that had been dumped in the waste bins in wealthier parts of the city.

He would take them out of the rubbish and retrieve them for families in poorer areas. His collection of chucked away books is now used by families wanting to help their children with their homework, in a free library called the Strength of Words. "There was a lack of them in our neighbourhood, so we started to help," said Mr Gutierrez. His home has been overfilled with books, so they are now taking books to poor parts of the city or to remote areas without any access to libraries. "The more books we give away, the more come to us," he said. He has also been providing books for fighters being demobilised in Colombia's peace process. A fighter from the Farc rebel group contacted him about getting books to help them prepare for jobs when they re-enter civilian life. "Books transformed me, so I think books are a symbol of hope for those places. They are a symbol of peace," said Mr Gutierrez. Now in his 50s, Mr Gutierrez is going back to study for his school leaver's exam, which he missed first time round.

[One thing better than a feel good story. A feel good story about books….. Brilliant. More power to you Mr Gutierrez. Keep up the good work. Books make the world a better place. The more people read more books the better all of our futures will be.]


Stephen said...

I sometimes wonder if I'm going to just re-locate my library's collection to my house....we keep discarding books (with me running interference to save what I can) to make room for wireless access areas. :(

Of course, ours go to smaller libraries, so it's not like they're being thrown away -- but still. I hate to see the stacks carved up so people can sit stupefied listening to music videos on their phones.

CyberKitten said...

Duh! Libraries without books........... [shakes head sadly] Our local library had a clear-out a while back and I picked up as many as I could. Then (not long again) I had an e-mail from someone I knew in one of our engineering sections to say that they'd been told to get rid of most of their book collection. Got some interesting volumes from them... [rubs hands]

VV said...

I'm always impressed by people who notice little things and make such a big difference in other people's lives. On another book related note, I saw this today and thought this would be a dream vacation for you. http://bookriot.com/2013/06/19/cool-bookish-places-gladstones-library/

Brian Joseph said...

This is such an impressive and unusual accomplishment.

I never knew that so many books were thrown away.

I wonder if other folks, throughout the world will try to emulate this.

Mudpuddle said...

our library is sneaky: they take books off the shelves and disappear them; no knows where they go...
Gutierrez for world president...

CyberKitten said...

@ Brian: I guess that people throw a lot of things away and some of them are books. Its a real shame when they can be donated easily. I do hope that this isn't a unique example.

@ Mudpuddle: Libraries do sometimes act in mysterious ways. I guess that's there's only so much shelf space so they need to 'cull' their stock from time to time.

I'd vote for him. Anyone who loves books that much deserves some power!