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The House Of Books: This Guy Turned His Home Into A Public Library
September 21, 2012
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When Hernando Guanlao, who lives in central Manila in the Philippines, lost his parents in 2000, he wanted to find a way to pay tribute to them. So he decided he'd honour their love of reading.

Now for most people, that might involve making a donation to a local library, or maybe giving away a book or two.

But Hernando isn't most people: he decided to turn his home into a lending library.


He started small, by placing a collection of less than a hundred books outside his door and seeing if anyone would be interested in borrowing them.

If you've ever left a pile of books outside your door, you might think you know how that story ends: the books get taken by passersby, and then, no more books. But that's not what happened.

Instead, people showed up to take some home for a read. Then they returned them, bringing back books of their own to add to the collection.

That was 12 years ago. Today, Hernando isn't sure how many books are in his collection, but according to the BBC, there are at least 2,000 or 3,000 in front of his house alone. Inside, he's running out of living space thanks to the piles of books that are stacked up everywhere.


And his library doesn't have any late fees. In fact, you don't have to return the books if you don't want to. "The only rule is that there are no rules," Hernando says.

This would be a cool story anywhere, but it's especially great in Hernando's country. The Philippines has one of the highest rates of literacy in the developing world. But it's not always easy to find books to read there.

According to Celine, who lives down the road from Hernando, books are too expensive for many people where she lives, and it's hard to find a public library.

"I haven't been to any public libraries except the national library in Manila," she says, and no books were available for borrowing there. And the average price for a book is about $7 - Celine says "considering the income here, I think parents have other priorities."

That's why Hernando isn't just serving his local area with his library. He also has a "book bike" that he takes to poor communities to offer them books.

And he's trying to help others start their own makeshift libraries. Hernando recently gave several boxes of books to a man trying to set up a similar venture in Bicol province, a 10-hour drive from Manila, and he wants to help a friend in the far south of the country do the same.

Hernando's philosophy of reading is connected to his home library. He says "you don't do justice to these books if you put them in a cabinet or a box. A book should be reused. It has a life, it has a message."

Related articles:

New York Library Pardons Kids For Late Fees To Get Them Reading

Forget The Library; You Can Study At The Skate Park

Take A Book, Leave A Book: The Little Free Library


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