Sheila, Shannelle, Ellie May and Pat Smyth with Anne Sheridan at the Book Exchange in Tallanstown
Nestled in the corner of the grounds of the Old School Building in Tallanstown, the village book exchange is as eye-catching an element of a small village as you are likely to encounter.
In situ for four years now, the book exchange is still as popular as it ever has been. That’s partly because there’s something for everyone and you never know what you’re likely to find.
There’s something for all tastes in there. Titles range from Michael Parkinson to Andy McNab, Marian Keyes to John Grisham and much more besides.
Unique to Ireland, certainly when it was installed in 2014 if not so much now, the phone box book exchange first came to Tallanstown as part of a TV3 series called ‘Get The Numbers Write’, a programme made in association with the Louth Meath Education & Training Board which aimed to help people step back into learning.
Beforehand, the phone box had been used as a tourist information point, as local Anne Sheridan explains. “I saw the idea in England, in a town called Settle. They were using a phone box as an art gallery with little postcard size paintings. I thought that would be a great idea and thought we could have it as a tourist information thing.”
Whilst the phone box was used as a tourist information point for a period, Anne says, “There wasn’t a big uptake on it.
“We bought it in a junkyard in Newry. It’s an English phone box. I kept seeing it when I’d be driving up and down past the Carrickdale. There was nothing like this in Ireland.”
In conjunction with the Tidy Towns initiative, of which Anne is a long time and dedicated member, the phone box successfully morphed from information booth to book exchange and four years later, locals still use it on a regular basis.
“It’s an exchange,” Anne says. “You bring one or two, you take one or two. You don’t dump a load of books at the door. A lot of people use it even four years later. Everybody says nobody reads books anymore – well, they do.
“There’s a lovely selection of books. There are around five or six shelves. It’s always accessible, the door’s not even locked. No one has ever touched it. There’s never been an issue. I’m amazed that it’s still used. Quite a few people use it.”
Anne says it requires very little maintenance and due to the regular usage, the stock replenishes itself with fresh options for the discerning reader all of the time.
“There’s no looking after it really,” she explains. “The Tidy Towns put in a new floor. Once a year, the people on the FAS might dust it. Or after winter, some books might have got damp, so we’ll get rid of them and stock up again.”
Ireland’s tidiest town as recently as 2010, Tallanstown is known for the care, attention, hard work and innovative thinking of its Tidy Towns committee.
The phone box book exchange is just one of a number of quaint sites in the small Mid-Louth village.