Garbage collector creates library from rescued books Jose Alberto Gutierrez, left, talks to children visiting his library at his home in Bogota, Colombia, Wednesday. The reading material slowly piles up, and now the ground floor of his small house is a makeshift community library stacked from floor to ceiling with some 20,000 books, ranging from chemistry textbooks to children’s classics. (AP Photo/Fernando Vergara)
Garbage collector creates library from rescued books
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A second-grade education has not stopped garbage collector Jose Gutierrez from bringing the gift of reading to thousands of Colombian children.
 
Gutierrez started rescuing books from the trash almost 20 years ago. He was driving a garbage truck at night through the country's wealthier neighborhoods. The discarded reading material slowly piled up. And now the ground floor of his small house is a makeshift community library. It is stacked from floor to ceiling with some 20,000 books. They range from chemistry textbooks to children's classics.
 
He says books are luxuries for boys and girls in low-income neighborhoods such as his. New reading material at bookstores is too expensive. There are 19 public libraries in Bogota. It is a city of 8.5 million. But the libraries tend to be located far away from poorer areas.
 
"This should be in all neighborhoods and on each corner of every neighborhood. In all the towns, in all departments and all the rural areas," says Gutierrez. "Books are our salvation. And that is what Colombia needs."
 
The 53-year-old Gutierrez has a love of reading that he says comes from his mother. She always read to him even though she was too poor to keep him in school.
 
"She used to read me stories every night," said Gutierrez. He has traveled to book fairs in Mexico and Chile to share his experience of starting a library with discarded reading material. "To me, books are the greatest invention and the best thing that can happen to a human being."
 
Gutierrez still sifts through the rubbish for additions to his library. But, his fame as Colombia's "Lord of the Books" has also brought him thousands of donated tomes. He has sent many to other libraries around the country. That is because he does not have room for them all.
 
Gutierrez is an avid reader of works by authors such as Leo Tolstoy, Victor Hugo and Mario Vargas Llosa. His favorite books include "One Hundred Years of Solitude" and "The General in his Labyrinth" by Colombia's Nobel Prize-winning novelist Gabriel Garcia Marquez.
 
He says he does not reject technology that allows books to be read digitally. But he prefers to read the printed word on paper.
 
"There is nothing more beautiful than having a book in your pocket, in your bag or inside your car," he says.

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CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
Why does Jose think "books are the greatest invention and the best thing that can happen to a human being?"
Write your answers in the comments section below


COMMENTS (108)
  • Jason0421-YYCA
    9/02/2015 - 08:52 p.m.

    I think that it is great for Jose Gutierrez to have been able to collect discarded books and then make a library out of his small house. I believe that being able to give books to the poor kids is a good thing since it shows your personality. I also think it shows the amount of respect you show to your books.

  • wendyr-jen
    9/08/2015 - 04:20 p.m.

    because he loves books and maybe his mom died and he loves books because in the story it said that his mom read to him and that why he likes books

  • wendyr-jen
    9/08/2015 - 04:23 p.m.

    maybe because his mom died and in the story it said that his mom read to him and maybe that's why he loves books

  • romeoh-jen
    9/08/2015 - 04:27 p.m.

    beacuse he thinks you you,ll learn a lot by reading

  • haileyh-1-jen
    9/08/2015 - 04:36 p.m.

    He thinks that books are the best.He also thinks it the best thing that he had ever done.He also thinks other kids around the world should try to do the same thing as he is doing.When the other kids around the world read some books they will want to read them almost all the time.The other kids may admire what he gave them.When they go to school they tell what the main characters and the main setting and there teacher will say "WOW"were did you get this information from "I got it from a boy named "Jose" gave me some wonderful books and every one will always want to rescue books to read and tell information about there book to their parents,teacher,and his classmates about his book.

  • darrenm-jen
    9/08/2015 - 04:38 p.m.

    he loves reading and his mother reads to him ever night that's why he thinks reading is the greatest thing that's happened to humans

  • jacelynh-jen
    9/08/2015 - 04:38 p.m.

    because they can teach you science,math,geomatry,and ect.
    ;0!

  • haileyh-1-jen
    9/08/2015 - 04:39 p.m.

    Because they can give people information.

  • donovyns-jen
    9/08/2015 - 04:40 p.m.

    One thang he is right about books being the greatest invention. But back to the question. Because they are informatinl.

  • jakeb-1-sha
    9/09/2015 - 07:49 a.m.

    Jose thinks that because he's said he's always liked learning from reading books and that he got it from his mom, and knowledge is power you will always learn something new from books.

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