I was lucky to grow up surrounded by books. My parents enjoyed reading to us, and my sister and I participated in our local library’s summer reading program.
My aunt, herself a librarian, provided wonderful books every Christmas and birthday.
Not everyone is as lucky as I was. Back in 2009, the Little Free Library movement took off, with individuals inspired to provide free books to their communities.
The setting for this Little Free Library in my neighborhood … pic.twitter.com/5ZYNCr4OKs
— Matt DeRienzo (@mattderienzo) April 27, 2021
Meanwhile, in Bogota Columbia some years earlier, another movement was taking off.
Over twenty years ago, Jose Alberto Gutierrez, a trash collector and Tolstoy fan, began to notice just how may books were thrown away in the trash.
And he decided to save them.
Over the years, he has collected tens of thousands of volumes within his home.
As he describes it:
We are fortunate enough to say that I think we are the only library in the world where people come to borrow a book and we give it to them as a present.
His family helps run the library, which they call La Fuerza de las Palabras (The Strength of Words), and they even converted an old ambulance into a bookmobile.
The amazing thing is that a similar library was started by trash collectors in Ankara, Turkey.
Garbage collectors in Ankara open a library with books rescued from the trash. "The only regret the men have, is that they didn't start collecting sooner."https://t.co/wWpWAeFA2H pic.twitter.com/hDNEUhuMNt
— Caroline de Gruyter (@CarolineGruyter) February 19, 2021
It really is incredible how one person can make a decision that changes their whole community.
This guy is the real deal, admired by book lovers and librarians the world over.
José Alberto Gutierrez has dedicated the last two decades (…) to filling more than 450 libraries, schools, and reading centers in Colombia with books recovered from the garbage. He has helped more than 22,000 Colombians in vulnerable, mainly rural areas. https://t.co/QXZ9N4AhwU
— Margarida Santos Lopes (@mslopes59) June 25, 2018
And now there is even a gorgeous children’s book about him, written by Angela Burke Kunkel and illustrated by Paolo Escobar.
I'm stunned by this beautifully written, gorgeously illustrated, incandescently lovely book by @angkunkel & @paolaesco8ar!! DIGGING FOR WORDS: JOSÉ ALBERTO GUTIÉRREZ AND THE LIBRARY HE BUILT shows how books connect us across time, distance, and circumstance. A book to treasure! pic.twitter.com/auJTgxFiPL
— 📚🧁🔅 Rajani LaRocca 💗⚾️🧬 (@rajanilarocca) July 27, 2020
I’m so inspired by stories like this – not just of how one person can see the value in recycling what someone else has thrown away, but just how that slight change can mean so much to children and adults, and have resounding impacts throughout the community.
What do you think? Did this story warm your heart and maybe even make you want to start your own Little Free Library? Tell us in the comments!