PHONE HOME // 25th February 2013

telephone-box-library-9[6]Once upon a time, there was an Island in Europe that cultivated a certain sense of style by doing things differently than its neighbors. In the UK, you would find red double decker buses with the steering wheel on the right side. You would also eat sausages and beans in the morning, tea in the afternoon and worship the Royal Family. And you would call your relatives or friends from an iconic red telephone box that you would find all over the country. Those telephones even had a knob to directly call someone reverse charge… Those were the days…

With the advent of mobile phones and Internet, the typical red booths are beginning to disappear. In 2002 there were 92,000 BT phone boxes on the streets of Britain. The figure has now fallen to 51,500, while just 11,000 of these are traditional red phone boxes. Fortunately, local communities and British Telecom have joined forces to recycle these landmarks into libraries. How clever!

The phone box is part of the history of many towns and villages, a part of the community’s identity. As many communities have lobbied BT for the right to retain red phone boxes because of their historical and visual appeal, the telecom brand launched a programme called ‘Adopt a kiosk’ in 2009. The programme allowed local communities and parish councils to adopt decommissioned telephone boxes in their areas for as low as £1. Since then, over 1,500 have been converted into art galleries, tea rooms and florists, grocery shops, and one of the most popular reuses – the lending library.

Most of these libraries remain unlocked. Anyone can come and take away a book to read or a DVD to watch but they must be replaced by another item thereby keeping the stock ever replenished. The books, magazines, DVDs, and cassettes itself are donated by the villagers.

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