It is every book lover’s dream to build a huge library in his home – one with shelves that go as high as the ceiling – holding millions of titles about almost anything under the sun. But we are not Belle from Beauty and the Beast, and libraries as massive as that are just stuff of fairytales.
However, one book lover from the Philippines was able to turn that dream into reality and so much more – not just for himself but for others who also want to read.
Located along a small alleyway in the city of Makati, Hernando Guanlao, also known as “Nanie”, has turned his home into a public library where everyone can read books and take them home, all for free.
Today, his home holds almost two million books. He says that he never thought that his collection of 50 books would grow into the number that it is today.
Unlike other public libraries, Nanie’s library is not very particular with policies. In fact, it is open 24/7 and people can borrow an unlimited number of books.
“Readers can take home as many books as they want,” he says.
The books are mostly fiction to nonfiction, and there are also a lot of reference books that will surely benefit students.
The senior doesn’t catalog the books nor does he maintain a database, saying that it is just additional work.
The library was started in 2000, an idea that sprang from Nanie’s contemplation of life after he retired as a government employee. He also wanted to find a way to honor the habit of reading that he inherited from his parents.
“When I was young, my parents and my elders believed that the school will guide us and would give us wisdom,” Nanie recalls. “You’ll have to learn how to read so you’ll not get lost.”
Nanie remembers that he thought of putting up a library when he found piles of unused books in their home. He displayed the books outside to see if people would borrow them, and they did. His collection grew when generous people began donating their books to him.
He also clarified that he doesn’t solicit for books. When there are not enough books on his shelves, people would come to fill them in.
“Somebody will walk in coming down from the streets bringing boxes. That’s volunteerism without attachment.”, he says.
The senior targets to dispatch 200 books per day. When that doesn’t happen, he checks his email for people requesting books. He would also look for a place where the books can be readily accessed by children.
“Books are just there. They come and go. I don’t worry about the inventory,” he says.
Nanie is motivated by the thought that he is helping people gain free access to books. He says that “people didn’t increase their reading because the books all have a price tag”. Which is true – in the Philippines, those who belong to the poor population regard education as a luxury.
He aspired to empower people who wanted to read but can’t afford to buy their own books, as he believes that “when you know how to read, the more places you’ll go”.
The booklover dreams that more people will build more public libraries, just like he did.
“It will roll on, evolve into a higher dimension. So the circles will go on and on and spread [into] a bigger, bigger circle and that is the Filipino circle that’s so big. That’s my dream,” he said.
As long as he can, Nanie vows that he will maintain his library of books. For as long as there are people who will donate, his mission will continue.
As he put it: “How do you stop something if people are still willing to help?”
Watch the video below from Rappler to hear it from Nanie himself, as he shares the story behind his public library.
Do you want to contribute to Nanie’s cause? Visit his Facebook page, Reading Club 2000, to learn how you can help.
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