Garbage Collector Rescues Discarded Books for Children

Of the 19 public libraries in Bogotá, Colombia, all are located far from the poorer regions of the city, thus restricting many people’s access to books.

Thankfully, 53-year-old garbage collector Jose Gutierrez is working hard to ensure that children everywhere are exposed to the joy of reading. As ABC News reports, Gutierrez began “rescuing books from the trash almost 20 years ago, when he was driving a garbage truck at night through the capital’s wealthier neighborhoods.” Due to the shockingly large number of abandoned books, Gutierrez was able to create a “makeshift community library stacked…with some 20,000 books” in his own home.

Gutierrez champions the power of books, regarding them as “luxuries” for children in poverty-stricken areas. He recalls how his mother, despite being unable to keep him in school past the second grade, still endeavored to read him stories every night during his childhood. Gutierrez therefore refers to books as our “salvation,” which I certainly can’t disagree with. His favorite books include One Hundred Years of Solitude and The General in his Labyrinth, written by fellow Colombian and Nobel-Prize winning novelist Gabriel García Márquez.

Gutierrez is known as “Lord of the Books” in Colombia, and due to his fame he frequently receives book donations. I can’t help but wish we had an American equivalent of “Lord of the Books,” especially considering the existence of its antithesis: the “Literary Litterbug,” a Colorado man recently found guilty for tossing unwanted books out of his vehicle. Gutierrez could have undoubtedly offered those novels a home in his library. If only!

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