If you needed a moment of sunshine today, this is it: a Columbian trash collector has established a library for the children in his low-income neighborhood, overflowing with books culled from wealthier neighborhoods.
Jose Alberto Gutierrez, known as "Lord of the Books," has been pulling books from the trash in wealthy neighborhoods for over 20 years during his nighttime work shifts, and compiling them into a community library, called The Strength of Words. His collection, which has overtaken the bottom floor of his house, now numbers at 20,000. From childhood classics to science textbooks, the books in The Strength of Words are available to children on the weekends, for free. The book to spark it all? Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy. He soon began ferrying 50 to 60 books a day home.
Gutierrez says his dream for a library was heavily influenced by his mother, who read to him every night, even when she could no longer afford to keep him in school past the second grade. "This should be in all neighborhoods, on each corner of every neighborhood, in all the towns, in all departments, and all the rural areas," said Gutierrez in an interview with AP.
Though Bogota, Columbia's capital, currently supports 19 libraries for 8.5 million residents, most of the literary institutions are sequestered in higher income communities. For the families of Gutierriez's South Bogota ward, the commute often proves too daunting and time-consuming, while purchasing new books is financially out of the question.
An AJ+ video of Gutierrez, posted on Monday and included above, has racked up more than 4 million views. In it, he describes himself simply as a bridge between children who have books, and those who have nothing.
Having accrued an overwhelming collection of books (and with the continual discovery of new ones - seriously, who just throws out books?!), Gutierrez has now begun shipping reading collections to a number of remote communities throughout Columbia. "Books are our salvation and that is what Colombia needs."