Filipino man turns his home into a public library

Nadine Bells
Good NewsSeptember 23, 2012

Hernando Guanlao has set up an informal library outside his central Manila home to encourage his community to share in his joy of reading, BBC News reports.

In 2000, Guanlao put his collection of books — he owned fewer than 100 — outside the door of his house, offering them to anyone who wanted to borrow them.

People did. They even added to his collection.

There are now close to 3,000 books — he doesn't keep an inventory as numbers are always changing — on the shelves and boxes stacked outside his door.

"It seems to me that the books are speaking to me. That's why it multiplies like that," he says of his unadvertised library, dubbed the Reading Club 2000. "The books are telling me they want to be read…they want to be passed around."

Locals call it "the library on Balagtas Street." Guanlao insists there are no rules at his library, and people can borrow the books for as long as they want, or even keep them permanently.

"People can borrow, they can read, they can take home. In fact, the club is open 24/7. I never close," he tells the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

Despite the Philippines' very high literacy rate, access to books in the country, especially among the poor, is limited.

Guanlao reaches Manila's poorest communities on his "book bike." He loads a large basket with books and delivers them to families who can't afford to buy books or make the long trek to the national library.

Guanlao is also starting to branch out, helping two other men set up similar ventures in other provinces. Eventually, he hopes to set up a "book boat" that would travel around the islands of Sulu and Basilan, "an area better known as a hideout for separatist rebels than for any great access to literature," BBC News reports.

"A book should be used and reused. It has life, it has a message," he says. "As a book caretaker, you become a full man."