“You Don’t Do Justice to These Books if You Put Them in a Cabinet or a Box. A Book Should be Used and Reused. It has Life; It has a Message”

Hernando Guanlao, a man in his 60s who lives in Manila, Philippines, and is nicknamed Nanie, loves books and enjoys sharing them. He puts books outside his home and lets people borrow them—even permanently. Borrowers can take as many books as they want. In September 2012, he said about his informal library, “The only rule is that there are no rules.” You might think that Mr. Guanlao would quickly have no books at all, but actually his collection has grown because people donate books to his informal library, which he started in 2000 because his parents had died and he wanted to honor their memory. He said, “It seems to me that the books are speaking to me. … The books are telling me they want to be read. … They want to be passed around.” He started with fewer than 100 books—his old textbooks—to see if people would borrow them. People did want to borrow his old textbooks, and so he set more books outside. Now he has 2,000 to 3,000 books outside his home—and many, many more in his house and garage. Mr. Guanlao even rides his bicycle into the poorest communities in Manila; his bike basket holds many books for him to lend. He said, “You don’t do justice to these books if you put them in a cabinet or a box. A book should be used and reused. It has life; it has a message. As a book caretaker, you become a full man.”

For Further Information: Kate McGeown, “The man who turned his home into a public library.” BBC News, Manila (Philippines). 19 September 2012 <http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-19547365>.

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