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Colombian waste collector creates free library filled with discarded books

A Colombian garbage collector gathered more than 20,000 discarded books and created a free library in the country’s capital.

Jose Alberto Gutierrez of Bogota started collecting the tossed books 20 years ago, according to the BBC. Leo Tolstoy’s classic, “Anna Karenina,” was the first book Gutierrez saved from destruction.

“I realized that people were throwing books away in the rubbish,” Gutierrez told the BBC. “I started to rescue them.”

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Gutierrez, who has been dubbed the “Lord of the Books,” would gather the disposed books and bring them to families who could not afford them. After some time, his collection started to grow and overfill his home, which was converted into a free library.

Some of the books are transported to the poverty-stricken areas of Bogota or regions with no libraries.

“The more books we give away, the more come to us,” he said.

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The dustbin man has also been supplying books to former soldiers of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia or FARC. Some of the rebels have expressed interest in studying a career as they prepare to reenter society after last year's peace deal.

Gutierrez himself plans to return to school and prepare for a leaver’s exam, a standardized test administered during the last two years of high school. Gutierrez was unable to take the exams when he was younger.