Xuhui telephone booths to be turned into libraries

Hundreds of outdated telephone kiosks in Xuhui District will be converted into miniature libraries, electronic booths and other cultural venues.
Xuhui District Culture Bureau / Ti Gong

An artistic rendition of the miniature library to be created from an outdated telephone booth in Xuhui District.

Xuhui District will turn its hundreds of outdated telephone booths into miniature libraries, electronic booths and other cultural venues, the government said on Thursday.

The downtown district has a total of 637 telephone booths that were largely built across the city before the mobile phone era made them largely redundant, said Fu Xiao, deputy director of the district's cultural bureau.

Many of the telephones still require an IC card that has all but disappeared in Shanghai.

"Residents have complained there are too many telephone booths in Xuhui that they seldom use. Many of them are in poor condition due to lack of maintenance," Fu said.

The iconic red booths will be renovated, with their appearance being kept to retain the flavor of the old Shanghai streets, she added.

The first batch of 12 revamped booths will open to public by the end of the year in a trial operation to solicit ideas.

Telephones will be kept inside the booths for people to make emergency calls free of charge.

The cultural bureau that takes charge of the renovation project has several ideas for the revamped kiosks. Some of them will be turned into the "library booths," where 60 or so books will be available for people to borrow. Under the plan, two telephone booths will be combined with a cylinder cabin placed between them to store the 60 books, according to the bureau.

"Inside the booths will be decorated into a 'sea of books' to attract young users to take selfie photos inside," Fu said. In future, the book borrowing system of the booths will be connected to the district library so that users can return the books to the nearby booths, she added.

Other booths will become "celebrity exhibition halls" with photos and introductions about famous writers and artists who once lived in Xuhui. Notices in these booths will  recommend visitors to see nearby former residences of  celebrities such as the writer Ba Jin, playwright Ke Ling and cartoonist Zhang Leping. Entry to these sights are free of charge.

"Electronic booths" will allow users to listen to audio materials or to record their own voices.

The local dialect can be heard in these kiosks — part of an effort to promote the distinctive language and culture of the city, Fu said.

There will also be a "book booth" that will have just one recommended book inside it, and this will be changed every week.

In a similar campaign, the downtown Changning District has also begun demolishing some of its redundant  telephone kiosks, while adding Wi-Fi services and multifunctional touch screens to booths being retained.

But there are no plans to emulate what Osaka, Japan, has done — converting a booth to a mini aquarium with hundreds fishes swimming inside. It has become a popular site for tourists.


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