When we think of libraries, we always think of them as buildings filled with bookshelves and reading desks in a strictly enforced quiet atmosphere. But then there are the open community libraries that thrive in the midst of a busy neighborhood or community that are hidden gems in a bustling city. Today, the Urban Roamer visits one of those libraries that have managed to be one of the most well-known community libraries out there, located in one of Makati’s working class neighborhoods in Barangay La Paz north of the commercial district.
This “library” is actually located in a residence of Hernando “Nanie” Guanlao, which he calls the “Reading Club 2000.” As the name implies, he started the library in the year 2000 as a sort of social experiment, community service, as well as a tribute to his parents who influenced him in his love for reading. Guanlao himself is a well-educated and philosophical fellow, having studied accountancy at what is now the Polytechnic University of the Philippines. (PUP)
At that time, he had about a hundred old books to start off and he was curious to know if there would be people who’d be interested to borrow them. It took a while but as soon as people understood its concept, people came to patronize at the same time.
There are no rules in place, nor are there membership fees involved. When you visit, you are encouraged to “borrow” a book there. I put borrow in quotation marks because you actually have the option to either return or…keep them. That’s right, you can keep any of the titles and you will not be charged any penalties for it.
With such rules. or lack thereof, in place, it is astounding to see that the books in the Reading Club did not dwindle but actually grew to about hundreds, if not thousands, of titles one can see there today, from textbooks to magazines to romance novels and philosophy books. Many of these titles are courtesy of the club’s growing number of patrons who have been constantly donating books over the years, to the point that books have now taken over much of the residence. But for Mr. Guanlao, it is a matter of good karma that his endeavor has benefited from.
Apart from a growing number of visitors to his library-home, Guanlao also helps in various literacy programs of a number of groups as he has been generously providing a number of the titles for use in libraries in different parts of the country. In effect, he has become as well a middleman for various groups and individuals who are donating their books to his library to be eventually be added to bookshelves of community libraries who may need them.
In a time at this supposedly “soulless” metropolis, where selfishness seems to take centerstage as an attitude among people, Guanlao and the Reading Club 2000 stands out not only as a place for learning and reading but also a place where the spirit of selflessness and giving is so much evident. The fact such a place has managed to thrive all these years in the midst of the changing landscape of the metropolis is evidence enough that one can still find a soul in a place like a metropolis that is usually dismissed as a cold place.
Reading Club 2000 is open 7 days a week and is located at 1454 Balagtas Street, Barangay La Paz, Makati. Do drop by and feel free to browse and keep some titles from this growing collection. If you have a book or more that you wish to donate, the Reading Club 2000 will be more than happy to accept them.
Check out the Reading Club 2000’s website at readingclub2000.com.
Acknowledgements as well to the Philippine Daily Inquirer and The Guardian