Short of becoming a time machine for well-meaning Gen X slackers, I cannot imagine a grander afterlife for the humble phone booth than to be reincarnated as a cosy wee library. One day you’re a rusted urinal, all-but invisible to the cellphone-clasping masses trundling past, and the next you’ve been given a full makeover—hand-painted, polished to a high shine, and lovingly stacked with colorful books. Suddenly, the world seems brighter. Tourists pose for pictures in front of you, children discover wonders within your modest stacks, local busybodies berate teenagers for idling too close to you. Truly, it is an Elysium.
Alas, most of the world’s now-obsolete call-boxes will never get to experience such divine rejuvenation. Like space tourism, Wonka factory walkthroughs, and ascension to Mormon heaven, this idyllic fate is reserved for only the chosen few.
Perhaps someday, when every local council includes at least one Wes Anderson devotee, each of the world’s remaining phone booths—from New York to New Zealand, Adelaide to Aberdeen—will become a precious literary oasis.
As we wait for that day to arrive, let’s salute the second acts of these plucky little guys.
Red Phone Box Library (Long Clawson, England)
Department of Urban Betterment Phone Booth Library (Manhattan, New York City)
Tauschbücherei Telefonzelle (Berlin, Germany)
Telefón Library Kiosk (Knockananna, Ireland)
Litla Skiptibokasafnid (Sudavik, Iceland)
Rikstelefon Phone Box Library (Sigtuna, Sweden)
Shanghai Phone Booth Library (Shanghai, China)
IKEM Hospital Phone Booth Library (Prague, Czech Republic)
Little Blue Phone Booth Library (Nagymaros, Hungary)
Jardim Manuel Bívar Garden Phone Booth (Faro, Portugal)