The Telephone Box Library

Womans Weekly Fiction Special|July 2020

The Telephone Box Library
Helping visitors to choose a suitable book was just part of the service, wasn’t it?
Amanda Swift

Required: Volunteer Librarian for 24-hour micro-library.

The advert was posted on the red phone box at the end of my road. Being an enthusiastic bookworm myself, I volunteered straightaway and got the job.

The idea was simple: Take a book, donate a book. Volunteers had fitted the former phone box with shelves on one side, a little piece of carpet on the floor and a light in the ceiling. They stocked the ‘library’ with their own unwanted books so that it started off looking full and attractive. They also put a sign on the door explaining the system. And that was it, the perfect little place to discover something new.

All I had to do was make sure that the former phone box was clean and tidy, and now and then I had to change the light bulb.

The telephone-box library proved to be really popular. I loved seeing people standing inside, reading, literally unable to put the book down. Sometimes I saw a couple of people standing outside, discussing their favourite books. And occasionally, when I was at the phone box performing my librarian duties, people would ask my advice on what book to borrow. I loved that. It was almost like being a real librarian.

One day when I was standing outside the box, cleaning the window panes, a man, who I guessed was around my own age, marched up to the library with a book in his hand. He looked angry. He opened the door, deftly placed the book between two others, closed the door behind him and marched off down the road. He didn’t even borrow a book.

I was intrigued. It was as if all he wanted was to get rid of the book as soon as possible. As soon as he was out of sight, I snuck across and took the book off the shelf. It was a well-thumbed copy of Great Expectations by Charles Dickens. I opened it to see a dedication written on the title page in a neat, cursive hand: To my darling Chris – with great expectations! All my love – Marie – 11.5.2000.

Lucky Chris, I thought. Marie really loves him. I put the book back on the shelf and more or less forgot about it until a few weeks later when I was tidying the books on the shelves. The same man – Chris – came up with another book in his hand and opened the door before even realising that I was in the box.

‘Oh! I’m sorry,’ he said. ‘I’ll come back later…’

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July 2020