Rescuing books from the trash in Bogotá

How one man’s idea to rescue books from the trash contributed to everyday life in Bogotá.

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José Alberto in one of his many libraries

Recently my colleague Elena interviewed José Alberto about his success in recycling books for schoolkids in Bogotá, Colombia. (You can read her original post in Spanish at Idealistas.org.)

In his work as a trash hauler, José Alberto observed usable books discarded by households throughout the city.

He knew that children in the low-income neighborhood near his home had difficulty getting the books they needed for their school work, there was no bookstore nearby, and the nearest library was a long way away.

So fifteen years ago, he decided to rescue them and make them available to the kids in his neighborhood. Starting in the ground floor of his own home, he has expanded the network of bibliotecas into eight neighborhoods of the city. As word of his project has spread, more and more Bogotános donate used books directly to him, avoiding the detour into a waste bin.

Elena says that José’s entire family has been involved in this never-ending project for 15 years now: “They don’t have a car or even a little motorbike, and frequently they cross the city after somebody’s call to pick up boxes of books that then they carry in buses all across the city.” By opening his own home as a place to find books, José Alberto started something that has changed the lives of thousands of children (and their parents) in Bogotá.

Did you know we have a Spanish site? Idealistas.org parallels the offerings of Idealist with jobs, volunteer opportunities, and frequent updates on its blog. If you can point out a project or activity that should be highlighted for visitors to Idealistas, please let us know.

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Comments (3)


  1. Turyatunga Bob Maahe writes:
    July 10, 2011 at 12:47 pm

    That is a good work and my question is that can overseas organizations involved in children education get some books for increasing on the lliteracy levels and reading preasure?


  2. Jen writes:
    July 11, 2011 at 10:20 pm

    What an inspiring story! This uplifting and positive message goes to show that the cliche of one person’s trash really is another person’s treasure. I hope this message resonates with Americans, especially since we are so often taking our material items for granted. Please keep these types of stories coming!


  3. zahra writes:
    July 12, 2011 at 8:16 am

    hei jose albeto,

    good job! keep doing! am very much interested about the books. because you are serving lives of many many children.

    childprospective@yahoo.com


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