Thursday, 29 September 2011

Library in a Phone Box #24 Arkesden, Essex

The Saffron Walden News reports on the opening of a new phone box library in the Village of Arkesden near Saffron Walden in Essex:-
Telephone box walk-in libraries are becoming all the rage as another one pops up in our region.
The unusual High Street accessory was featured last week at Henhan and now villagers in Arkesden are enjoying their newly-acquired collection of books.

BT asked for a donation of £1 to purchase decommissioned phone boxes, which Arkesden Parish Council took them up on earlier this year.

The council then invited residents to decide on a new use for the iconic red box.
Suggestions included a shower, parcel collection box, local information point, history archive, tea stop (with kettle and provisions), art gallery and an honesty grocery shop.

But it was Arkesden resident and mum-of-three, Jemma Macfadyen’s winning library idea that was voted the most popular and usable.

She has since moved temporarily abroad with her family, but thanks to her idea, villagers can now borrow books anytime, day or night and replenish the library with unwanted books from home.
Cllr Jane Chetcuti, from Arkesden Parish Council, said: “Unfortunately, the traditional red phone box has become redundant in modern Britain.

“BT’s great idea for councils to adopt local kiosks not only saves the iconic red box from extinction but also enhances communities.

“Jemma Macfadyen’s book exchange idea provides a lovely focal point where people can meet and swap books they have enjoyed.”

Children's books are also available and a notebook is provided to encourage book reviews and comments.

Beti Newton, ex-postmistress in Arkesden, who has lived next to the phone box for 37 years said: “I used to be paid 50p to clean it every week!

“The library is such a lovely idea and very well-used. I borrowed a book, recommended to me by a friend, just this weekend.”
Looks like a fine example of a four shelf phone box library, although the shelves are less full than other examples with no stacking on top.

After discussing matters with a few acquaintances, I feel I should point out that I have never bought a red phone box from BT, given it a fresh lick of paint, installed shelves, filled it with books and painted on a sign that says "Phone box Library".

However dozens of other people across the UK have done for various reasons, and I'm not such a self-righteous, pompous and condescending prick to tell them that they are wrong, these things are not "libraries", and how dare they use that word for a glorified book-swap, take it down at once, return those books to their private homes and leave public access book exchange facilities to trained professionals and elected officials who clearly and demonstrably know better than village-dwelling little people.

If the patrons of the phone box libraries wish to refer to them as phone box libraries, then that is fine with me.

Forsooth, there have never been public libraries in the villages Thruxton, Cowlinge, Haybridge
and Little Shelford. But now there is at least one structure that bears the word "library".

The existence red phone box libraries, swear down, are not and have never been a reason to close public libraries, or to justify their closure, or excuse their closure, or mitigate their closure, they are merely a serendipitous parochial reaction to the availability of redundant red phone boxes.

Perhaps I'm wrong, The Saffron Walden News, The South Wales Argus, The Warrington Guardian and the BBC too, perhaps we should not be reporting on such trivial matters.

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