Monday, 7 December 2009

Is it a phone box or is it a library?

When the mobile library stopped visiting, it was a blow for the villagers of Westbury-sub-Mendip. And when they found out they could lose their beloved red phone box, there was something of an outcry. Happily a bright spark in the Somerset village (population 800) hatched a clever plan to tackle both difficulties. Why not buy the phone box and use it to set up a mini-library?

The small but perfectly formed Westbury book box was doing a brisk trade. Parish councillor Bob Dolby, who cleans and polishes the phone box/library with his wife, Lyn, beamed with pride. "It has really taken off," he said. "Turnover is rapid and there's a good range of books, everything from reference books to biographies and blockbusters."

The inside of the converted phone box/library in Westbury-sub-Mendip.

The scheme was the brainchild of resident Janet Fisher, who lives opposite the phone box. She floated the idea at a village tea party in August and the concept was accepted on the spot. So the parish council bought the box, a Giles Gilbert Scott K6 design, for £1, and Dolby screwed the four shelves into place. A local business donated a sign and a wag added a "Silence please" notice. Residents donated books to get the project going and it became an instant hit, all for an outlay of just £30.

And unlike the nearest Council library in Wells, four miles away, the phone box library is open 365 days a year, 24 hours a day – and is lit at night. There is a regular check on it to see if some titles are not moving. These are then shipped on to a charity shop to keep the phone box collection fresh.

BT has received 770 applications for communities to "adopt a kiosk". So far 350 boxes have been handed to parish councils. Ideas for their afterlife have included a shower, art installations, even a toilet. Dolby said he was just pleased that a piece of street architecture in Westbury had been put to good use. "It's very pleasing that the phone box has been saved but is also being used to provide a service for the village."


  1. What a great idea and talk about recycling and sense of community. I think that now has to be one of my favourite library photos.

  2. Very cool. Love the phone box library.



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