TEXT & PHOTO: Kaycie Gayle
Reading Club 2000 is a community library with an unstructured setup. Though the library is in a private residence, it is an open house for everyone who’s interested to visit. It is located amid a busy neighborhood in the bustling commercial district of Makati. Though some parts of the house are already dilapidated it is an esteemed spot for its sensible cause.
The library as seen from the street
From Balagtas Street, the ancestral house can be seen with signage “A good book is easy to find. FREE READING TO THE PUBLIC”. This display is even noticeable as the sun reflects on the surrounding shiny compact disks on it. On the left side of the house facade, you would see smaller signage made of tarpaulin, bearing the name Reading Club 2000. Vinyl records are also used as an adornment on the lower exterior of the house. Meanwhile, a lot of books are covered by a transparent plastic cover and placed on a rack just before the abode’s entrance. Two chairs and a table with books on top are placed under a tree making it an ideal spot to read alfresco. This is the facade of the house of books.
The house of books
The library cum house contains thousands of unsorted books ready to be shared for free to any reader who would like to bring it home. The books range from paperbacks, fashion magazines, technical manuals, arcane histories, and even school textbooks.
The first floor of the abode which seemed to be a garage previously has an aisle where both sides of it are stacked with books from floor to ceiling. Each shelf, crates, and tables have books piled high on it. This section contains mostly books for children like little comics, storybooks, and magazines. Walking through its aisle, you would reach an opening on the left side where a stair is located leading to the second floor of the house.
Heading to the second floor of the house, you are going to climb through a stair with a stack of books on each step. Each stair riser has platitudes and adorned with used CDs. The side walls have posted articles about the communities Guanlao has reached out to.
Upon reaching the second floor you would realize the books have really taken over much of the residence. Every available space on the second floor has encroached by books. Due to the overwhelming number of books, shelves space has all been used up thus some are piled up on the floor, while some are kept in boxes. Books on the second floor are for advanced readers. Shuffling through the reading materials will enable you to find a lot of interesting ones from familiar titles to rare books. Another quote signage has been displayed near the window of the second floor saying “No one has ever become poor in giving books’ which seems to represent the watchword of the community library.
A normal scene in this house are kids having fun going in and out, up and down looking for coloring books and storybooks. Some scrounge around to find a book they can use as a reference for their research work.
The man behind the house of books
Hernando Guanlao, who’s known by the community as ‘Mang’ Nanie or ‘Tatay’ Nanie is the man behind the library. He is well-educated and philosophical. He studied accountancy and was once a government employee.
Tatay Nanie shared during the interview, that when he was about seven years old he used to have a book corner. He got his books by trading the stamps he had with comic books. Back then, he was particularly interested in comics as the stories are well illustrated. When he retired and have plenty of time to pursue a passion project, he looked back and thought of the things that he liked doing before.
The birth of Reading Club 2000
Seeing his old books, he came up with the concept of sharing it with the public so they can still be in use. He gathered whatever books he had around the house, including the books of his siblings that were already dusted for being kept for a long time. The books he collected approximately totaled 100. To see if anyone would be interested to use them, he displayed the books outside their house and placed a sign that reading and borrowing them was free.
It took a while before people understood his concept, but Tatay Nanie remained consistent. Eventually, his family books were well accepted and appreciated by the community. People came to patronize, and some borrowers even brought the books back and donated more books in return. This increased his collection hence has given birth to the public library that it is now.
The naming of Reading Club 2000
Although the informal library is called Reading Club 2000, ‘Tatay’ Nanie has started the library earlier than 2000. Passersby initially called it as “Akalatan sa bangketa” and “Bangketa sa Barrio La Paz.” As the library has been popular and featured in different publications, including radio and TV programs, it was officially named to Reading Club 2000 for easy reference concerning its name and when it has started.
The rules in the house of books
The library has no rules in place. ‘Tatay’ Nanie prefers it to be unstructured. It has no operational hours and opens 24/7 so that people can come at any time of the day and get books even he is not around the house or fast asleep at night. There is no membership, borrower’s card or ID required, neither card cataloging involved. There’s also no limit as to how many books you can take. When you visit, the system is simple, you are encouraged to “borrow” a book, feel free to browse around, and have the option to either return it or keep it for as long as you want without penalty. You can even share and pass the books you borrowed on to another. What matters only here is that you take a book with you.
Pay it forward system
Mang Nanie encouraged sharing the books with others after reading them. It may seem that this way of operating the library is not a sustainable practice. However, it is surprising that the books did not even dwindle but actually multiplied. What was taken gets replaced many times over.
This library is not advertised, but ‘Tatay’ Nanie’s efforts and advocacy have spread as news and different print and online publications featured it. As many have heard about it, people from different places come to see it. Some even just drop by to leave boxes of books outside his door. A steady stream of patrons and supporters come and constantly donate books over the years. This resulted in an overwhelming number of books, hence Tatay Nanie has no idea how many books are in his possession. He couldn’t keep an inventory consistently as books come and go fast.
The multiple purpose of the community library
‘Tatay’ Nanie also started this as a tribute to his late parents who were able to gift them with education. He wants to raise awareness that learning is still possible even with a limited means if learning materials are available. Thus he is sharing his books for free. This is consistent with the posted quote on the second floor on his house that says “No one has ever become poor in giving books.”
House of books reaches out to communities
‘Tatay Nanie’ believes that reading shouldn’t come at a cost. He finds joy in sharing the books to children who need them most. His heart is especially with street children who have no opportunity to study.
With the desire to help others and make learning even more accessible to everyone. He was not confined to just managing his own library but he extended and reached out to others. He sends out some of the donated books to schools and impoverished communities. Also, he brings boxes of books into different neighborhoods himself. Some books were distributed in places where street children usually hang out and in different rural areas in the country where there is little or no access to books.
‘Tatay Nanie’ has become somewhat a middleman as he donates the books that have been donated to his library to other community libraries that need reading materials. ‘Tatay Nanie’s efforts and advocacy have inspired others to start their own book drive, and he willingly helps others to set up their own free library.
Wise words from ‘Tatay’ Nanie
‘Tatay’ Nanie may have a bunch of books to share, but more than that, he was able to share his insights that are worth quoting. During the interview he stated,
“Di naman kailangan ng degree sa ginagawa ko.. Bsta matapang lang, you can make a difference and use your talent. Sa akin books ung medium ko para ma-educate ung iba.”
A degree is not needed in what I do. You just have to be courageous and use your talent to make a difference. In my case, I used books as a medium to help educate others.
‘Tatay’ Nanie aims to distribute at least 200 books a day. He wants people to realize that there is still free in the business district of Makati.
Ways on how how to help or take part in the House of books
1. If you have books that you wish to donate, Reading Club 2000 will be happy to accept them.
2. You can donate any kind of informational books that would enrich the knowledge of the public. It is best if you would donate preloved books that are still in good condition.
3. You can volunteer to sort out books, so it will be easier for borrowers to see their favorite books or the ones that they are looking for. This will also help to easily retrieve the stored books that will be donated to communities.
4. Tatay Nanie is so welcoming that he offers snacks to visitors who take time to chat with him. It’s better if you are able to bring something you can eat together with Tatay Nanie while enjoying a good conversation with him. Moreover, you can also share this with the children, old people and street kids who come to this house to borrow books.
5. You can also help spread about the advocacy of this community library by sharing its story with others. Also, you can encourage others to donate books or just help with whatever they can to support the advocacy of reading club 2000.
Safe and Happy Travels! 💛
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