With the global economy still reeling from the sub-prime housing crisis and its various aftershocks, governments everywhere are feeling the pinch, particularly at the local levels. Budgets have been slashed and when the hard decisions must be made as to how to balance them, departments considered to be “non-essential” are usually first on the chopping block. Sadly, this category often includes the local library. The Dekalb County Public Library system has been very fortunate and hasn’t been forced to make any service reductions or branch closures, however others have not been so lucky. In this environment of reduced and discontinued services, a few communities have decided to take matters into their own hands.
In Hannover, Germany, some neighborhoods are served by a community bookshelf. The shelves are placed in various areas around the city and completely free and accessible to all. Borrowers don’t need library cards, nor must they worry about overdue fines. In return, all that is asked of borrowers is that they donate a couple of books of their own in order to ensure that a healthy supply is available.
In Westbury-sub-Mendip, a small village in southwest England, residents raised an outcry when they learned they were to lose their “beloved” red phone booth, fresh on the heels of the discontinuation of their mobile library service. So when one creative resident suggested transforming the phone booth into a miniature library, the idea was accepted immediately. The parish council purchased the red phone booth, outfitted it with four wooden shelves, residents donated books (and a notice reading “Silence please”), and the mini-library began operation. It quickly became a hit. The library is open 24/7 (it is lit at night), and the inventory is checked regularly in order to identify titles which are not circulating (which are then donated to charity), in order to keep the selection fresh. And the residents of Westbury-sub-Mendip are not the only ones who have had the bright idea to re-purpose a phone booth. British Telecom has received 770 applications from communities to “adopt a kiosk”, and thus far 350 booths have been distributed to parish councils throughout England.
I’d love to have something like this in my neighborhood, how about you?