Lord of Books

24 Apr

Can you imagine not having access to a library? José Alberto Gutierrez of Columbia can. So he’s doing something about it.

José is know as the Lord of Books in his poor Colombian neighborhood of Bogotá.

He started picking books out of the garbage 20 years ago. On his rounds as a trash collector in the wealthy neighborhoods of Bogotá, José noticed books in good condition being discarded on a daily basis. His first rescue was a copy of Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina. He began bringing home 50 to 60 books a day. Now his home houses upwards of thirty thousand books reaching up to the ceiling!

José learned to read on his mother’s lap. She could only afford to allow him to go to school up to the second grade. The rest of José education came from her. His mother, and later his father, read to him every night, instilling a love for stories in a largely illiterate environment.

Columbia’s capital of over 13 million citizens, has only 19 libraries. Most of them are in the wealthier neighborhoods, leaving the poor neighborhoods without service and the people who need it most, without.

15 years ago, José opened his home library to his friends and neighbors. He calls his library The Strength of Words. His community library is now open every weekend to the citizens of southern Bogota. His neighbors come with bags to collect books to take home with them. Each bag, each book, each word, is strength for a population of people hungry for stories, news, education. As he is fond of saying, “reading is a tool for life”.

Now, José and his brother-in-law drive around town with boxes of books to distribute to the people of Bogotá who cannot come to him. This modern day bookmobile provides access to literature for hundreds of people per trip.

There are many videos on YouTube about José Gutierrez. Here is one of the most recent ones.


904b3364f397a7670b02538fe5c794ccv1_max_755x566_b3535db83dc50e27c1bb1392364c95a2“Books are one of humanity’s greatest inventions.” -José Alberto Gutierrez

12 Responses to “Lord of Books”

  1. Cassie Bentley May 4, 2017 at 1:41 PM #

    This reminds me of the story of Biblio Burro. This is inspiring and would be a great picture book.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Juliana Lee May 4, 2017 at 7:30 PM #

      It does, Cassie. Biblioburro by Jeanette Winter and Waiting for Biblioburro by Monica Brown are about a man named Luis Soriana also from Columbia.


  2. trinitygrau April 25, 2017 at 12:11 PM #

    I think this is so wonderful. Sometimes I think I take it for granted that I can work at a wonderful library, with multiple people to help cultivate and keep it up. Yet here’s someone who’s changing the world for those who are so much less fortunate. I hope that we could all do something like this if it was needed.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Juliana Lee April 25, 2017 at 12:18 PM #

      I agree. I visit my library several times a week. I’m always thankful for the library system we have (one of the best in the country, I’m sure) but I rarely think about people who don’t have a library nearby. This story really opened my eyes.


  3. Norah Colvin April 25, 2017 at 9:13 AM #

    What an inspiring story. Thank you so much for sharing. Some of us take so much for granted. Here’s a man making a real difference to the lives of others.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Carl D'Agostino April 25, 2017 at 5:57 AM #

    reposted on my tw, fb and gog. Delightful story.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Juliana Lee April 25, 2017 at 10:21 AM #

      Thank you, Carl! I’m so glad you liked it too. I thought it was so inspiring when I first heard about it.


  5. Lauri Fortino April 24, 2017 at 8:15 PM #

    Wonderful story!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Patricia Tilton April 24, 2017 at 7:47 PM #

    I love stories like this. Ordinary people doing extraordinary things. Sounds like a book idea.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Juliana Lee April 25, 2017 at 10:27 AM #

      Me too, Pat. These stories always capture my heart.


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