The Lewisham Micro Library…The Littlest Library I Know…

I suppose, for the purposes of accuracy, technically this is more a book exchange than a library but let’s divert our attention to the pertinent point here…..errr….it is in a phone box?!?  Yes, you’ve read right and no, I am not a few sandwiches short of a picnic.

Lewisham Micro Library

Every so often, you come across something so quirky, eccentric and special that you have to check to see if you actually remembered to put your contact lenses in. It is precisely for rare finds like this that I put up a specific category on the blog about “weird and wonderful.” On a recent morning out in Brockley, rapidly turning into one of my favourite London jaunts, we were heading towards Brockley Market, when my sister pointed out that there were “books in that phonebox”.

We were in the car, keeping watch for a parking spot so Pumpkin and I dismissed her moment of weirdness and carried on driving but again her baffled tone of voice reiterated, “No – look. There are books in that phonebox”. This time, we gave her the benefit of the doubt and decided to do some detective work. She was right (her vision has always been better than mine). There were indeed books in that phonebox.

phone booth library

A Phonebox Library

This Lewisham micro-library, only launched in the last few weeks in a disused phone box, has been renovated by a local Brockley resident. I hadn’t realised that these phone boxes are actually classified as Grade 2 listed buildings but why shouldn’t they be? They are such a huge part of British heritage and as internationally-recognised London landmarks, I’m sure there are tourists all over the world with souvenir, mini, red phone boxes on their mantelpieces.

Lewisham library

A little piece of paper at the front of the phone box explains more – we are free to take a book from the shelves so long as we replace it with another. This is a local treasure to cherish, enjoy and use.  I stepped inside to have a look. We found a Lonely Planet guide to Hong Kong and Macau, hiding amongst some light-hearted, fictional works. The notions of education, innovation and community spirit are so cosily embodied within the walls of this little, red booth.

phonebox library

I still remember my first trip to a library. I was 5 years old and it was my first year in primary school. I wanted to borrow the Care Bear’s Cook Book  – it was already out on loan. I remember the disappointment. It was real and raw. I had to go back two or three times to ask before I finally nabbed it, gripping it with an assertive possessiveness all the way home. It felt like Christmas.  And then I read it and we made cookies. It paved the way for my lifelong relationship with baked goods. But despite risking sounding three times my age in saying this, things are different nowadays. Now we have kindles. We have Amazon. We have audio books. Books are easy to access and cheap to buy and libraries can become the forgotten victims amidst our busy, digital lives.

Not this one. I’ll be back here soon with a book of my own. I would have loved to have borrowed one today day but that’s not in the spirit of things. If you take one, you give one back and I hope that’s how it continues. Brockley has put trust into local residents to treat it with the affection it deserves and I very much hope we will all respect it, frequent it and expand our literary repertoire with it.


55 thoughts on “The Lewisham Micro Library…The Littlest Library I Know…

  1. I love this idea. How beautiful. I noticed a book exchange today at a new local cafe too. Bron

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) May 25, 2014 — 9:41 am

      Yeh I just found it so charming and a great way to bring together a community! I think there are a few of them dotted around England. Thanks for stopping by Bron 🙂

  2. That is such a great idea! I’m a big fan of libraries – I spent most of my childhood in one, and worked in them for several years. A wonderful way to bring the community together.

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) May 25, 2014 — 3:59 pm

      So glad you like it – I agree that it’s just a wonderful idea and such a novel and exciting way to remind people how important books and libraries are 🙂

  3. I love this! I have friends in Brockley so I’m going to ask them if they’ve seen it. I really hope everyone gets into the spirit of it and it works, it’s such a great initiative. #SundayTraveler

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) May 25, 2014 — 8:57 pm

      Definitely tell them – I’m sure they’d love it! It’s been around a few months now and so far, I think the community seem to have really loved it so fingers crossed it stays that way 🙂

  4. This makes me want to move back to London just to check this place out! So cute!

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) May 25, 2014 — 8:59 pm

      It’s such a sweet little idea isn’t it?! Bizarrely, I went to visit a friend who lives on the South Coast of England in a small village and I found another one! Quite strange as there are only a handful throughout the country from what I’ve heard! Thanks for commenting 🙂

  5. bavariansojourn May 25, 2014 — 6:08 pm

    What a fantastic idea! I used to constantly find books that people had left for others to enjoy when I commuted in London, but to actually have a choice – brilliant! 🙂

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) May 25, 2014 — 9:01 pm

      Yeh it’s lovely to have a choice and in fact, since I’ve written the post, I think there’s now a little shelf in there just for kids books too, which is a nice idea! Such a lovely addition to the local area 🙂 Thanks for commenting!

  6. I’ve heard a lot lately of micro libraries and I think they’re such a cool idea! I would love to see one in real life.

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) May 26, 2014 — 11:20 pm

      Yeh I think there are a few of them in some smaller towns and villages in England but it’s great to hear if the idea is spreading! Great way to make books and libraries fun for everyone!

  7. malaysianmeanders May 27, 2014 — 2:02 am

    I love this idea. I’ve heard of micro libraries and have not actually encountered one in real life. This is the largest micro library I’ve seen, and I think it’s fantastic that it’s in an old phone booth. I do hope that people treat this one with respect and follow the rules. I would gladly participate.

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) May 27, 2014 — 7:02 pm

      I’m so glad you like the sound of it! And hopefully, one day one will appear when you’re not expecting it (just like it did for me that morning when it turned into such a fun surprise!) Thanks for commenting 🙂

  8. Such a great idea. I always love a book exchange. I have found the most interesting books in them, and also ones I would have never chosen to read and ended up loving them.

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) May 27, 2014 — 7:03 pm

      I agree completely – in a library, we would all normally just pick a book we have in mind already but in a book exchange, it does broaden our horizons a bit! Thanks for reading and commenting 🙂

  9. An excellent way to repurpose the anachronistic phone box and promote a sense of community. There’s a micro-version of this on a street in Prospect Heights in Brooklyn – more of a glass case. Irrespective of the manner of presentation, I’m sure each makes people smile when they see them.

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) May 27, 2014 — 7:05 pm

      How lovely to hear there is something similar in Brooklyn! I completely agree – the outer packaging doesn’t matter so much but the concept is so great and I’m yet to meet anyone who hasn’t liked the idea! Thanks for reading and commenting!

  10. Such a great concept! And I love the name of your blog category – weird and wonderful. I grew up in a small town, where library was actually the only entertainment. And the librarian was a weird woman that everybody tried to be nice to. ‘Cause if she didn’t like you, the books you would look for were always out on loan. Now when I think, this was actually a terrifying experience!

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) May 27, 2014 — 9:14 pm

      Hahaha! What a great story!! Though the strange librarian sounds like a scary character from a children’s book! 😀 I’m so happy that so many people are liking this concept as much as I did when I found the phone box that morning! I wasn’t sure where on earth to archive blog posts like that so “weird and wonderful” seemed the most accurate place to file! Thanks so much for commenting!

  11. Omg, what a cool idea!! I love it! And even more so for the fact that it’s in a RED PHONE BOOTH! I agree with you, nothing beats the feeling of having a book in hand, and flipping through the pages. But sadly, I can only settle for the digital books now :(.

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) May 28, 2014 — 6:43 pm

      Yep – it’s such a fun concept! And I know what you mean – I have a kindle too but I still always find myself picking up an old fashioned book for my travels etc – I just love how timeless real books are 🙂 Thanks for commenting!

  12. I LOVE this so much! I would definitely put good use to this 🙂 Thanks so much for linking up to the #SundayTraveler!

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) May 31, 2014 — 8:29 am

      So glad you like it as much as I do Ashley! It’s such a lovely addition to London and proves how sometimes, it’s the simplest and smallest things that can make people smile 🙂

  13. I actually saw something similar in a train station in Japan and thought it was a genious idea! They had a smaller version of an old train car inside the station filled with books that people could contribute to or take away for free. What a great way to share books and encourage reading!

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) June 1, 2014 — 6:31 pm

      I’m loving hearing about all the other places in the world that have come up with a similar idea! It’s so innovating and a great way to encourage reading and community spirit! Thanks for commenting Bryna 🙂

  14. Great post Shikha! It’s these random discoveries that I really love about London. My favourite part of this post though was your own tale of experiencing a library for the first time, how you felt when the ‘Care Bear’s Cook Book’ was out and when you were finally able to borrow it. When you said, “And then I read it and we made cookies.” I was expecting the next sentence to be, “It paved the way for my lifelong relationship with…” reading! Haha But I can totally get on board with baked goods! 🙂 Great post that exudes the excitement books should bring. 🙂

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) June 23, 2014 — 9:46 pm

      Thanks so much for your kind words Jess! Haha, yes I think I got carried away with the talk of baked goods and forgot that the post was about books and reading 🙂 I just found that the sight of the cute library brought back all those memories of when I first understood what a library was!

  15. This is brilliant! Now I have to take a trip there just to see this!

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) July 30, 2014 — 7:46 pm

      Oh you will just love it Ayla!! And would you believe I found another one just by chance on the south coast of England – watch this space!

  16. We have a phonebox library near us they are such a brilliant idea! It’s world book day this week so your post could not be more timely! #travellinkup

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) March 3, 2017 — 5:52 pm

      Oh yes, so it is! I want to tell you that was deliberate but…😀 The phone box libraries are just the sweetest aren’t they?! This was the first I saw & I practically leapt with excitement but have been delighted to spot a few more around since then in various other parts of the country!

  17. We’ve got a phone box library in our village – the books inside are not as beautifully arranged as the one here though! It’s a great idea. #travellinkup

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) March 3, 2017 — 5:54 pm

      Your village isn’t either Chobham or Bosham is it by any chance Claire? (Only because I’ve randomly come across phone box libraries I’m both those places too!) They are such a fun & fabulous way to inspire reading, books & regeneration ☺

  18. How cute is this?! Love the idea of taking a book but having to replace it. #TravelLinkUp

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) March 3, 2017 — 5:56 pm

      Isn’t it just Christine?! I just wish I’d had a book in my handbag when I discovered this so that I could have utilised it myself!

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) March 3, 2017 — 6:01 pm

      Me too! Such a wonderful little find ☺

  19. this is an excellent use of a longer not needed telephone box:)

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) March 3, 2017 — 11:57 pm

      I think so too Tanja! So innovative & fun – great little asset to the local community ☺

  20. As I librarian, I love these little libraries. I love that this one is in an telephone booth.

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) March 4, 2017 — 3:45 pm

      Oh, as a librarian, I imagine you’d be even more excited than I was to find this! They’re such fun little pockets of space to create cute little libraries inside ☺

  21. So exciting to see a post from my home borough of Lewisham! And I LOVE this, it’s so simple yet just to great 🙂

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) March 4, 2017 — 3:48 pm

      I felt the same way Marcella! Being someone who calls Blackheath home, I was so pleased to find this charming little addition to the local community. Try and pop by to browse it and maybe even borrow a book from it when you are back!

  22. Super cute – I wish I had one of these on my walk to and from work!

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) March 4, 2017 — 3:51 pm

      It’s just such a sweet idea isn’t it Anna?! And all the more surprising find in a busy, built up and very urban part of zone 3 but such a delightful addition & long may it stay there!

  23. I’ve heard about this! Definitely need to remember its there when I’m around that area

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) March 11, 2017 — 9:34 pm

      It’s so adorable Eppie & definitely worth a snoop if you’re intrigued by that sort of thing. We were lucky to have stumbled upon it purely by chance just a week or so after it first opened up ☺

  24. OMG Shikha, this is the cutest thing EVER!

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) March 21, 2017 — 2:25 pm

      Ain’t it just the sweetest Emma?! Great way to get kids (and adults for that matter) excited about reading and visiting libraries I think 🙂

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