EXCLUSIVE: Man behind Banbury Phone Box Library describes BT’s eviction notice as ‘soul-destroying’

Red phone box library near St. John's Church, Banbury. NNL-141222-105243009
Red phone box library near St. John's Church, Banbury. NNL-141222-105243009

The creative mind behind the initiative in the red phone box outside St John’s Church in South Bar says the notice was ‘cold-hearted’ but thanked everyone for their support in trying to save it.

The man, who has remained anonymous throughout, said: “The support received so far has been out of this world, and it has been brilliant to hear so many positive personal stories about how The Phone Box Library has made a difference to people. “People have quite obviously made a connection with this, and with the whole idea of giving a little love back to their community. I walked past there twice on Tuesday, and both times there was a different person in there... one was filling the shelves, and one was obviously having a careful think about which book to take home. I had no idea at that point though, just quite how many people were involved. wonderful.

“The BT notice put up on Wednesday was absolutely soul-destroying. Until that moment, the library scheme seemed to be all coming together nicely, with support from the community and people regularly donating, borrowing and returning the books making all those six months of perseverance worthwhile.

“The notice was officious and cold-hearted, the antithesis of what the phonebox library was about.

“Like many people, I found the reasons given by BT somewhat ridiculous. My books at home don’t often spontaneously fall from their shelves, and I couldn’t understand how books in the phonebox might do the same. It felt like whoever had written the note had not actually seen the phonebox. There are no teetering piles of ridiculously balanced books in there, no jenga stacked deadly paperbacks, no paper thin shelves held up with chewing gum or made out of tissue paper. The more I looked at the set up in there, the more confident i was that those books would not fall down.

“After reading about the Twitter storm on Wednesday night, it was clear that the scheme had so much wonderful and positive support from the local community and beyond. That was amazing, and everyone involved should be really proud of that: the people of Banbury can be a real community, and we should celebrate that more often.

“Since then, i have read BT’s witty and pun filled response. This is really encouraging, although I have to wonder whether the person who wrote the response has themselves ever visited our phone box.

“It is lovely to read of BT’s support for adopted phone boxes around the country. BT mention that it might be possible for the people of Banbury to adopt a phonebox for use as a library.. but no mention is made of that specific phonebox... and it’s that phonebox, right at the heart of our community, that the people of Banbury have shown that they want as a library.

“I was surprised that a thousand calls had been made this year... that’s nearly three a day, every day! I want to make it clear that no one would want to stop the phone box being used as its makers had intended. Not everyone has a mobile phone, and those that don’t need as much support as they can get.

“Really though, this is not an argument about whether this phonebox should be a library, or whether it should just have a phone in it. There is a middle ground, where everyone is happy. Let’s keep the books there, and keep the phone working, so that everyone who wants to use that phonebox can do. If the shelves are a problem, let’s work together to construct something that even makes the people at BT smile.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if there is a phone box library fan out there who might know someone who’d be up for the job! You can have bookshelves on boats that don’t let the books fall out... I’m sure we can have something that does the job in this particularly stable iconic structure. There’s got to be a way around all of this.

“The threat of eviction is still very much there, and all the press coverage in the world won’t change that. In the meantime, I would just like to thank everyone who has tweeted their support for the scheme, for everyone who has borrowed or donated or returned a book to the phone box, and for everyone in this town who has stepped out of their way to help share the idea of community.

Like everything in life, I think we need to get together to figure out a solution that works for everyone. Come on BT: it’s good to talk!”