Somehow, Britain’s Telephone Boxes Just Got Even More Adorable. And Classy.

The red telephone box has been an iconic fixture of Britain since the 1920s. Phone boxes, red and otherwise, numbered at 92,000 in 2002 and could be found all throughout the UK, but, thanks to the advent of cell phones and the Internet, there are only about 50,000, with only 11,000 being the traditional, and eye-catching, red ones. The company who owns them, BT, has been removing phone boxes regularly for the past 20 years.

While people aren’t going to give up their cell phones to keep the red phone boxes around, they are lobbying to have the structures saved. They have not only visual appeal, many towns and villages argue, standing out bright red against the rolling green countryside, but they’re tied to the culture and history of the country, and serve not only as phone booths, but as landmarks.

So in order to save the structures, even as technology advances, BT created a project called “Adopt a Kiosk” in 2009. This program allows local communities to adopt a decommissioned phone box in their area for as little as £1 (about $1.65 American), and turn them into something else. Boxes have been turned into art pieces and galleries, installed in pubs as decor and turned into tea rooms, groceries and florists. Some boxes even have emergency defibrillators installed. 

One of the most popular choices, though, are libraries. These free, community libraries are unlocked and open to the public, and stuffed full of books, magazines and DVDs. The rule is that for each item you take, you leave one behind, so the box is always stocked. So if you feel the need for a new book, but have a few old books lying around, you can head to the phone box and swap them out. 

The basic rules: Give one, take one.

This box does double duty as a library and emergency defibrillator site. (Also there’s a lost-and-found.)

As a result, the phone boxes continue to be little hubs of community activity, even though there’s no phone inside. In an interview with the Daily Mail, BT said that they’re happy to see the boxes remain, even without phones: “The most fantastic thing about the Adopt A Kiosk scheme has been how communities across the country have become involved. Red phone boxes have become a focal point for all sorts of activities of real value to the local community. It’s so gratifying to see our old rarely used boxes given a new lease of life.”

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