When was the last time you used a pay phone? In the era of the cell phone, one is far less likely to see a coin-operated pay phone, either at the back of a bar or in a booth on the corner. The mayor's office in Rueil-Malmaison has come up with an intriguing plan to re-purpose the phone booths in that small town in the Ile de France: turn them into mini-warehouses for its "Livres en Liberté" project. An article by Marie-Lucie Walch (Des "Cabines à Lire" dans les Hauts-de-Seine: le pari du libre-service, June 20) for L'Express has the details (my translation):
Wooden shelves freshly mounted on the inside will hold books furnished by the mayor's office at first. The stock of these "reading booths" should be renewed as users borrow books from them, because they are also invited to books to them. According to the mayor's office, which created the project, "this outdoor library encourages public reading by giving greater and free access to the books, favoring a social aspect and creating an exchange among readers." To realize this sweet dream, the booths will be spread out through the town according to the different types of target population. Top priority: young people and those who would not go to traditional cultural spots of their own accord. That is the reason why the second of these mini-libraries was placed in a poor neighborhood. The first, opened last week, was put in a park for children.Similar projects have been inaugurated in France and other countries. So far, the mayor's office reports, there has been no vandalism and very positive feedback. About ten more booths are planned if the first two are well received.