This post was originally published in the Bridport News. I wrote for them, once a week, as a guest columnist
As mobile phones dominate the telecommunication industry, the original purpose of the charming red phone boxes that adorn village corners is disappearing. However, the boxes themselves are not obsolete. Once again, they are becoming occupied, maybe no longer by the hassled and fumbling people of before but now by colourful spines and expectant browsers: telephone boxes have become community libraries. Tiny, red spaces perfect for holding the thousand lives that books can offer any wannabe adventurer.
Regardless of the whimsical nature of this scheme, it also provides a practical solution. Phone box libraries provide easy and fuss-free availability. With the more traditional libraries closing, and mobile library services being reduced people’s ability to access books and all they can provide. These, although not traditional libraries, give the communities within which they are found access to books without having to travel to a library or bookshop.
It is hard to track down how and when this brilliant idea began, it may have been by an entrepreneurial community, but the only concrete evidence for its beginning I have found is on the BT website. Here you can buy or adopt a discontinued telephone box that can then be used as the purchaser choices. The books found in these pop-up libraries are donated by the members of the community, swapped out for others, and shared in exactly the way they should be – loved by one reader and then passed onto community spaces so that they can then be loved by another. I’d be lying if I said that I wasn’t hoping, just a little, for our red phone box to become a library soon. However, as it is currently still working its original purpose, this seems unlikely; at least for the near future.