On Wednesday 26th January I went for a walk and took a photo of a bus shelter which had been re-purposed as a book swap. Heart-warmingly, when I tweeted the photo it went viral with over 94K likes. It's wonderful to know that so many people love books and have a real soft spot for community initiatives. I tracked down the organisers who I’ve now met with several times and found out much more about this lovely grass roots initiative. I've also donated a copy of my recently launched debut novel Foolish Heroines.
The book swap was set up in May 2021. Neston is classed as a village but joins onto the town of Corsham. It’s on the edge of an industrial estate and a lot of heavy traffic passes by. The council still maintain the bus shelter structure but it had no longer been used as a bus shelter for many years. There is still a bus service but it runs a slightly different route. The local community were asked if they would like the shelter to be removed or whether they would like to adopt it for other uses.
The recently elected Parish Councillor, Jeremey Brook put up the shelves. The shelves and the seat were donated by the local primary school as they were surplus to requirements. Jeremy is able to visit the shelter frequently to keep everything tidy and he’s helped in maintaining the book stop by Debbie Riall, another local resident and author of a book on autism (The Autism Resource Manual).
Book swap users can either return or keep the books as there are plenty of donations and if some readers hang on to the books they’ve borrowed this just results in room for new stock. It’s used a lot by both adults and children and there are a couple of other smaller book swaps in other parts of Neston as well. There’s a fully staffed Wiltshire County Council public library in Corsham about a mile and a half away.
The shelter is well-lit so is even used on winter evenings as it’s near public lighting but some extra lighting is going to be installed. Also, some protective sheeting is going to be fitted round the edge of the shelter to give the books further protection but the direction of the prevailing wind means that rain isn’t usually a problem.
Some people were interested in ‘Andy’ and ‘Terry’ the two names which someone had scored into the cement, decades ago when the bus shelter was first built (and which were visible in the original photo on twitter). Rumour has it that Terry has a relative who is going to write something in the next Neston Community magazine Neston News!