New chapter in Banbury library kiosk story means happy ending on the books

“Perfect solution” found by town council and BT 

The tale of Banbury’s “phone box library” is set to have a happy ending after a unique agreement between Banbury Town Council and communications company BT.

Following discussions between the two organisations, a plan has been hatched that will result in the town having a working phone box and a phone box library beside one another in South Bar.

BT has agreed to provide the extra red kiosk for a nominal charge. It will have no phone, just books housed on safe and secure shelves. This new library booth, will, like the makeshift one it replaces, be situated outside St John’s RC Church.
The improvised library kiosk quickly captured the interest of social media users around the world after a local resident installed shelves and books inside the kiosk. The idea was that passers-by would borrow the books and return them – and add new books to the collection. Following a complaint from a phone kiosk user however, BT was compelled to request their removal on health and safety grounds.

Banbury Town Council responded by offering to “adopt” the phone box under a process whereby BT sometimes lets others take over responsibility for a kiosk and put it to different use.

BT supported the adoption but was unable to support the kiosk’s ‘dual use’ as a mini library and a working payphone, because the books and shelves can impede the use and maintenance of a working phone.

However, a “perfect solution” was found after a meeting between Gareth McWilliams, a general manager for BT operations, Kieron Mallon, the leader of the council and Mark Recchia, the town clerk. BT offered a disused red kiosk, minus the phone, which will be installed and maintained by the town council as a library next to the existing well-used payphone.

Councillor Mallon said: “This proposal from BT is the perfect solution. It’s not unusual to find two red phone boxes side by side – and having a community library and a working payphone in South Bar will be the best of both worlds. This is a positive outcome when all seemed lost.”

The man who started the library, who preferred to remain anonymous, said: “It is absolutely wonderful that BT and the town council have worked together to find a solution that suits everyone.

“This is something we can all be proud of. The story of the phone box library finally looks like it is getting a happy ending. This has shown that when we get together to help each other, great things can happen.”

Mr McWilliams said: “From the very start, BT has been extremely keen to find the right solution for everyone involved and to ensure this tale has a happy ending.

“We’re only too aware of the fondness with which people feel for the traditional red phone boxes. This is clearly shown by the popularity of our payphone adoption scheme, which was developed to enable communities to keep their local red phone boxes and put them to a different use after they were no longer used for their original purpose as working payphones.

“Unfortunately it’s simply not feasible for us to let anyone install any additional equipment or items in any of our working payphones, but we believe the idea we have developed with the council is the right answer for Banbury.”