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.
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.
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.
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.
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.