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Czech phone booths find new life as mini-libraries

A man walks past a mini library made from a former phone booth in IKEM hospital on January 9, 2014 in Prague (AFP Photo/Michal Cizek)

PRAGUE: Two Czechs have breathed new life into telephone booths made obsolete in the mobile phone era, converting them into miniature libraries. The first was installed at a Prague hospital Thursday.On the shelves of the red booth, patients of the IKEM hospital will find a plethora of genres, including works by U.S. crime writer John Grisham, Czech and Russian titles and biographer Andrew Morton’s “Diana: Her True Story.”

The library mastermind, 27-year-old Monika Serbusova, said she and a friend drew inspiration from a similar project in Britain.

They won backing from a local phone operator, and then built the libraries with the help of colleagues and friends, painting the booths and installing shelves.

“My cousin who studies at a technical school told us how to mount the booth,” Serbusova said, “my grandma brought us a bagful of books from a scrap yard.”

She said they intend to set up other libraries at a shopping center and elsewhere. They currently have 700 books, but the selection will grow as people have promised to donate large collections.

“The plan is to install nine booths in Prague,” said Lucie Jungmannova, a spokeswoman for phone operator Telefonica Czech Republic, “and then see how successful the project is.”

She said the company runs over 13,000 booths across the country, down by half from 10 years ago as people increasingly use mobile phones.

It’s “a wonderful idea,” IKEM radiologist Radomira Hnutova said, as she peeked into the new hospital library.

“Patients can borrow a book and bring it back when they come for the next scan!”

However, Alena Ulcova, who sells flowers down the corridor, voiced concern over the city’s high theft levels.

“I only hope people won’t steal them,” she warned.

“It would be nice if some of the books stayed on the shelves.”

 

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