Express & Star

Is Belbroughton phone box the world's smallest library?

They say the best things come in small packages. And that is certainly true for the Belbroughton Book Exchange near Stourbridge.


They say the best things come in small packages. And that is certainly true for the Belbroughton Book Exchange near Stourbridge.

Despite being one of the smallest libraries in the world, set up in an old red telephone box, it is a honey pot for the village's avid readers.

The library is kept stocked up as villagers borrow books and replace them with their own used volumes.

"It's self-perpetuating," said Ruth Perry, of High Street, Belbroughton, who runs the exchange with the help of a group of neighbours and fellow members of the village history society.

When members of the history group found out the phone kiosk in High Street on the corner of Pinchers Close was going to be removed by BT last year, they set about finding a way of saving it for the village.

"The kiosk is very nice street furniture, although it was getting dilapidated and was non-commissioned, with none of its internal organs left inside," said Mrs Perry, aged 66, a retired teacher.

"We had to have an authorised body to take it over so Belbroughton Parish Council became our underwriter and the history society purchased it from BT for a nominal £1.

"BT painted it and even put the gold crowns back on, because they had worn off.

"We wanted it to be useful, rather than decorative, and mused over what we could use it for.

"We'd heard of other places where phone boxes had children's paintings in – but hit upon the idea of turning it into a library for the village.

"I'm obsessed about children reading and I'm glad to see so many young people in the village using our library."

Mrs Perry, together with neighbours Sue and Ian Dalziel, Sue Pawley and history society chairman Sarah Bradley, then started setting it up. They had to replace one pane of glass in the phone box and Belbroughton Woodyard gave them the shelving, which the volunteers painted black.

They put a request in the parish newsletter for people to donate their used books – and Mrs Perry, who runs a second hand book shop at Harvington Hall, near Kidderminster, stored them in her hallway.

"It was good fun setting it up and we had bags of books to stock it," said Mrs Perrry, who has lived in Belbroughton for 23 years.

"Then, in May last year, we had a grand opening."

At least 100 people now use the library regularly, dipping into its stock of 200 to 300 fact, fiction and children's books and then replenishing the shelves with their own spare ones.

Among the regulars are retired teachers Chris and Heather Lofthouse.

"We think the idea to use the telephone box as a library is a fantastic one," said Mr Lofthouse. We regularly borrow and donate to it.

"In fact, although our children have now grown up and left home, they also use the library on visits back home.

"The opening of the box happened shortly after the death of my mother, who was an avid reader and a collector of books, so I was able to donate quite a few books in the beginning to help stock the library."

Cyclists and hikers passing through the village also often stop and browse the shelves.

"People respect it and we make sure it's neatly stacked with quality books," said Mrs Perry.

The book exchange is now a focal point of Belbroughton and it was decked out with bunting for the recent Queen's diamond jubilee celebrations.

Villagers, who are proud of their book exchange phone box, also tend to the garden around it to make sure it is always neat and tidy.

  • So, do you know of a smaller library than Belbroughton's? Let us know in the comment box below.

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