Yi Wang

Micro Library in a Telephone Box

Is the telephone box out of date when everyone is using smartphones nowadays? As a commonly recognized icon in London, the classic red box is now having a brand-new function: as a micro library! Located on Loampit Hill on the corner of Tyrwhitt Road, the Lewisham Micro Library is such an interesting and innovative book exchange booth that has operated since 2013 in the community.

Figure 1 Lewisham Micro Library

Figure 1 Lewisham Micro Library

This phone box is owned and looked after by the Brockley Society. It is open 24 hours and is free for all. The only notice is that if you take a book to read, replace with an old book that you no longer read so that the library can be run smoothly. Just as their motto says, “it is not what you get, it’s what you leave behind.”

Figure 2 the motto on the ceiling of the phone box

Figure 2 the motto on the ceiling of the phone box

The phone box is said to be originally purchased by Sebastian Handley as part of British Telecom’s ‘Adopt a Kiosk’ scheme. He then renovated the booth and transformed it into a library. From its official Facebook page, we can see the range of books covering from biographies to fiction to guidebooks, which can fulfil the needs for people to grab something to read on underground or bus.

When I visited this booth, I saw the library is truly in use and influences the local community. As I observed, almost two in three people passing by would stop because of curiosity, taking photos and stepping into the small space to have a closer look. The booth might be small and can’t compare with those public libraries. However, the advantage of it lies on the accessibility – on the roadside, open 24/7, free to all. This can be a good practice of the democratization of culture.

Besides, what touches me is the sharing spirit and the sense of community behind it. In fact, when the micro library was first open to the public, the owner also worried that his life might “suddenly include daily graffiti removal”, or readers might not put books back. But these potential problems didn’t happen. Instead, more and more books are donated into the little red box. It seems that the local residents are proud of the idea and cherish the existence of this book exchange booth.

Now find an old book in your home and come to Lewisham Micro Library to exchange a book! The nearest train station is “St Johns” (4 min walk from the library), while there’s also a bus stop nearby with Routes 21, 136, 321 and 436, alight at “Tyrwhitt Road”. While the booth might not be the best place to read, at the back of it is Deptford Memorial Gardens, where you can find benches, trees and grass to enjoy a great time of reading.

Figure 2 the location of the mini library

Figure 2 the location of the mini library

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