Colombian Garbage Man Builds Library from Thrown Books

Jose Alberto Gutierrez was a humble garbage man working in the Colombian capital of Bogota. Then one day, he found a copy of the classic book Anna Karenina by Tolstoy in the trash bin. Gutierrez decided to keep the book. This also started what became a large collection of books that he was able to collect through his job. Today, 54-year old Gutierrez’s library contains more than 25,000 books, although most of them were also taken from donations from all over the country.


The library started with more than 200 discarded books that Gutierrez had collected over the years. With wife Luz Mery Gutierrez and their three children, Gutierrez then opened his free library to the public and anyone could come by and grab a book to borrow. Soon his neighbors started to borrow books to help their children with their schoolwork. An entire floor was then dedicated to the books that he was able to collect. Volunteers joined in and started collecting books for Gutierrez, and as the word spread, he found himself the recipient of books from all over the country.


“We have a blessed curse upon us,” he said. “The more books we give away, the more come to us.” Gutierrez has long since kept his collection complete by spending his own money to buy more books to put in his library. The same library became so big that he no longer had time to help the children with their schoolwork. Now Gutierrez travels all over the country, personally delivering free books to hundreds of families and children that are either too poor or live in remote areas.

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