Lord Of The Books
It is amazing what people throw away. Just ask Jose Alberto Gutierrez, a dustbin man in Bogota, Columbia. For ever since he rescued a copy of Anna Karenina by Tolstoy from a bin in a wealthy neighbourhood 20 years ago, Mr Gutierrez has amassed more than 20,000 books, all of which had been discarded by their owners. Such is the depth and breadth of his collection, that the Lord of the Books, as he has become known, has set up his very own free community library called the Strength of Words for families in poorer areas of the city. “I realised that people were throwing books away in the rubbish. I started to rescue them… There was a lack of them in our neighbourhood, so we started to help,” said Mr Gutierrez. And it seems the free library is going from strength to strength as even though he has started to donate parts of his collection to poor or remote areas where there are no libraries close by, his home is still bursting at the seams with books, as he explains “The more books we give away, the more come to us”. What’s more Mr Gutierrez’s library is doing its bit for the country’s peace process after a fighter from the Farc rebel group requested some of his books to help adjust to life as a civilian. “Books transformed me, so I think books are a symbol of hope for those places. They are a symbol of peace,” said Mr Gutierrez who is now planning to study for the school leaver’s exam he never got. Talk about hitting the books.