Garbage collector Jose Gutierrez gives new meaning to the phrase “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” The 53-year-old Colombian man has been collecting children’s books out of dumps for the past twenty years in order to provide a makeshift library to the city of Bogota. He now houses over twenty-thousand titles rescued from the dump.
Gutierrez’s efforts are not in isolation. Plenty of creative minds the world over have been finding innovative ways to bring books to the world’s poorest kids. Book vending machines have popped up in Washington D.C., books are available on bikes in Seattle and San Francisco, and there are book buses in South America and Asia. Little free libraries remain popular, and a string of vandalism has outraged their community members. Recently, the media was captivated by a Utah boy’s plea to the mailman for junk mail to read. The mailman, touched that a young child was asking for reading material rather than electronics, put out a call for people to donate used books to the young boy.
While libraries are a great model for delivering literature to communities, many reports point out that branches are often located far from poor neighborhoods, a phenomenon not unlike that of the food desert, where many grocery store chains opt not to build stores in low-income areas. It’s easy to take for granted our access to books. It’s easy to forget that reading is luxury.