I came across this story a few days ago. It is not new but it is inspiring.
It is about a refuse collector from Bogota in Columbia who has been saving books that have been discarded and offering them to people in the less affluent areas of the city. It is a modern Robin Hood tale, saving from the rich to share with the poor.
Jose Gutierrez has become known as the ‘Lord of the Books’. He has been saving them from the refuse for over twenty years now and has amassed a library of twenty thousand volumes. They pack the downstairs of his home and he lends them out to his neighbourhood.
It is very easy in the first world to forget the level of luxury in which we live. Books are commonplace to most of us even though literacy rates in this country are not as high as we would like. The ability to read is one of the most fundamental skills of the modern world. I cannot imagine what it would be like not to be able to read, yet access to interesting, exciting and rewarding material is still outside the reach of many across the globe.
Libraries are closing here. They are seen as an anachronism that the public purse should not pay for. They are something that are kept going by volunteers, do gooders and hobbyists. Books are commonplace for us yet luxuries for others.
According to Gutierrez, ‘[Libraries} should be in all neighbourhoods, on each corner of every neighbourhood, in all the towns, in all departments, and all the rural areas. Books are our salvation and that is what Columbia needs.’
This is true not just in Columbia. A world without books would be a barren place.
As the Lord of the Books says, ‘There’s nothing more beautiful than having a book in your pocket, in your bag or inside your car.’
Forget this at our peril.