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Monday, April 16, 2012

Book Swaps for London coming to the Tube

Last week I heard about the new "
Book Swaps for London" campaign which has the ambitious aim of a London-wide book sharing scheme in London’s Tube and train stations in time for the London Olympics. They said "By providing our network of volunteers with books, shelves, expertise and support, our first aim is to reach as many of the 700 London Underground and rail stations in Greater London as we can".

Morden and Tooting Broadway book swap prototypes

In December 2011, the campaign was the winner of the first #ideas4Mayor competition at the London Policy Conference. Boris said:  “I think it’s a very good idea and would say something powerful about the kind of city we are and our commitment to literacy, which obviously we are trying to demonstrate in lots of ways particularly with young people

It's an interesting yet simple idea. The group are proposing that shelves are set up in Tube & overgrounnd stations, and commuters can use them to pick up books they would like to read and drop off books that they want to give away.  This scheme builds on already successful ones like Bookcrossing and local pub and hostel swap schemes.

Morden and Tooting Broadway book swap prototypes

They said "By some estimates, up to 13 million books are sent to the UK’s landfills every year. Given current resource and landfill constraints, this just isn’t sustainable. In order to keep books in circulation, we want to combine people power with something that most people do in London every day – use the Tube and trains. Station swaps will be used by hundreds of people every day to swap their unwanted books, and to discover new ones to read.

We want to establish train and Tube stations as the heart of a capital wide scheme for book swapping, with shelves and permanent and semi-permanent swaps in as many stations as possible. We need local volunteers to run these station swaps!"

So far there are (or have been) prototypes set up at Wimbledon, West Ealing, Tooting Broadway, Raynes Park and Morden Tube stations.  The group are running meet up groups around London to see how they can get more volunteers on board to help set up a swap at their local stations.  They've also had a meeting with TfL to establish the feasibility & safety aspects of the service.

I wish them the best of luck with the idea.  If you'd like to find out more or help follow them on Twitter @londonbookswap, and keep an eye on their blog  & Facebook Group.  If you're a publisher or some other organisation who can get involved by donating books or shelving they'd love to hear from you too.

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