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The Banbury Phone Library will be removed by BT on March 3
The Banbury Phone Library will be removed by BT on March 3

An eviction notice will still be served on a town phone box library despite a community and social media campaign to save the popular facility, BT yesterday (Wednesday) told the Banbury Guardian.

Thehashtag #saveourphoneboxlibrary was first used on Twitter last Wednesday when the world became aware that the telecom giant had served an eviction notice on the initiative outside St John’s Church in South Bar due to health and safety issues.

But after nearly a week of campaigning to protect the scheme, which was set up by an anonymous man last summer, the Banbury Guardian can confirm that BT has once and for all put a stop to the library.

Speaking yesterday a BT spokesman said: “Having tried extremely hard to find a solution that was acceptable to everyone, BT was disappointed that its invitation to adopt the phone box wasn’t taken up.

“We understand how popular the library is, but it is simply not viable for the kiosk to be used for such a service as well as being a busy working pay phone. We are very willing to discuss the possibility of other phone boxes in Banbury being adopted where the pay phone isn’t in regular use.”

At first the ferocious online campaign seemed to have worked when Banbury Town Council confirmed it was in talks with BT about adopting the box.

Banbury-based business Hawkins Steel Ltd also said it was willing to donate its services to manufacture secure and suitable shelving and racking inside the phone box.

Shortly after that a Tweet from @BTCare – which a spokesman later said was down to ‘human error’ – further emphasised the belief that the novel literary scheme was saved. It read: “A fairytale ending for the Banbury Phonebox Library. We’ve agreed ‘adoption’ with the local council. #SaveOurPhoneboxLibrary.”

But the Tweet made the town council see red as it has remained adamant it would only adopt the box if it would comprise on both a phone and the library –something which had not yet been agreed.

Leader of the council Kieron Mallon said: “A Banbury resident came up with a bright idea to use the phone box as a book exchange, but after a complaint BT ordered that the books be removed.

“BT indicated the phone box could be adopted and Banbury Town Council offered to take it over. Hawkins Steel volunteered to build safe shelving. BT, however, is adamant that dual use is not possible.”

“The phone box was used 1,100 times last year and the users are probably those who do not Tweet or have mobile phones. It would be a shame for Banbury’s last iconic red phone box to be decommissioned, and the town council will not be party to its loss.”

The man behind the initiative said the eviction notice, which calls for all books and the shelving to be removed by March 3, was ‘soul-destroying’.

He said: “The support received 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.

“The BT notice 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 library was about.”