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Teacher Creates Unusual Public Library

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Teacher Creates Unusual Public Library

Photo: Dagbjört Hjaltadóttir

Dagbjört Hjaltadóttir, a teacher from Súðavík in the West Fjords region, has opened Iceland’s first book swap library based in a disused phone box.

“The idea is for people to leave books they have already read and take another book instead. I believe that if we share then people will have easier access to entertaining reading. And maybe try to read something they would never think of reading otherwise,” says Dagbjört, who has lived in Súðavík for over 30 years.

She had to get permission from the Culture and Publicity Committee at the Súðavíkurhreppur municipality, but says that was not hard: “There really isn’t much that’s forbidden here in Súðavík,” Guðbjörg told Vísir with a laugh. “We have to use our creativity to stimulate life in the town.”

Dagbjört first encountered the idea of communal books on a bus in Edinburgh many years ago. A book lying unattended on a seat had a sticker saying, “take this book, read it and then leave it somewhere for somebody else.” Dagbjört says it was the first science fiction book she had ever read and that it opened up a whole new world to her.

The library is in a disused phone box in Súðavík which has been seeking a new job since the age of the mobile phone started.

“I hope people look after it,” Dagbjört says—adding that the number of deposits and withdrawals must roughly match up for it to be a success. For that reason, she is calling on people to donate to the library even if they don’t take anything out at this stage—it would be especially nice to get books in German for the many German tourists in the town.

Dagbjört organized the library and hand painted its colorful signs and she hopes others will treat it with respect; including by not leaving books in plastic bags, but rather putting them neatly on the shelves.

As a teacher, Dagbjört says that one can never read too much and encourages others to create book sharing libraries near their own homes. They need not be more elaborate than a good wooden box with a latch, she says.

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