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 (233)
  • jonathanf-1-sha
    9/09/2015 - 07:53 a.m.

    Jose thinks books are amazing because his mother read to him every night even though she couldn't efford to let him go to school. He thinks that "books are our salvation" it's our destiny to read books so we can be smarter and get more information about the world.

  • joeg-sha
    9/09/2015 - 07:54 a.m.

    He believes that books can be available to all people. Also books help people learn because they teach you all sorts of things.He also loves reading because his mom read to him as a kid.

  • kylel-sha
    9/09/2015 - 07:55 a.m.

    He thinks this because he loves books. He loves the fact that you can get more knowledgeable from reading. He didn't have school when he was younger because his mom couldn't afford it so she read to him.

  • elenab-sha
    9/09/2015 - 07:55 a.m.

    Jose thinks books are the greatest invention and the best thing that can happen to a human being because his mother would always read to him even though she was too poor to keep him in school. Also because he says books are our salvation and that nooks are luxuries for boys and girls.

  • bellao-1-sha
    9/09/2015 - 07:55 a.m.

    Because for the less fortunate, books are like movies in your hand and then you imagine it the way you want in your head!

  • brentl-sha
    9/09/2015 - 07:56 a.m.

    He thinks that the are the greatest invention because when you read it opens up the readers mind and gets them thinking. It also provides education and a bored defeater. Books can help people learn so much more and do more things.

  • ashleyb-3-sha
    9/09/2015 - 07:57 a.m.

    Books can educate people and give them something to do if they are bored. Books are very special to him because his mother used to read books to him when he wasn't in school.

  • christianj-sha
    9/09/2015 - 07:59 a.m.

    Jose thinks this about books because his mom read to him every night and it entertained him. So he thinks this way about books because they can entertain other kids and adults

  • leahw-sha
    9/09/2015 - 08:00 a.m.

    Because he loves reading, and also it represents his mother because she used to read to him. He does not have access to books which makes him love books even more

  • marandat-sha
    9/09/2015 - 08:00 a.m.

    Jose thinks books are the greatest invention, and are the best thing that can happen to a human being because growing up, his mom didn't have enough money to keep him in school. He didn't get more than a second grade education, but his mom read to him every night, growing his love for reading. He wants every low-income family, neighborhood, and country to be able to have the luxury of reading and learning from the books they read. He wants every other person to have the opprotunity to read a book, to experience the excitement of feeling involved in the plot of the story.

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