With the return of many more passengers on the London Underground, the book-swap bookshelf at High Barnet tube station is proving so popular it has almost run out of books.


Only a handful are currently on offer – to the disappointment of station assistant Darren Gahan who along with other members of staff keeps a watchful eye on the bookshelf when on duty in the booking office at the top entrance.

“Often it’s quite full up with books and it is very popular.

“Lots of books are left as well taken away to be read, but I must say the shelf is looking a bit bare at the moment.”

Book-swap bookshelves have been on offer for some years at tube stations along the Northern Line and the book-swaps at Woodside Park and East Finchley are especially well used.

High Barnet’s book-swap was started in December 2019 and successive station managers have done all they can to encourage its use.

A new and much larger shelf unit appeared some months ago – donated either by a someone on the staff or a member of the public.

Barnet book-swap campaigner Andia Farrokhzaden spent some time this summer restocking the bookshelf with the help of High Street charity shops such as Cherry Lodge Cancer Care, Cancer Research and All Aboard.

By spreading the word about High Barnet station having a fully functioning book-swap shelf, she hopes that more volunteers will help with the restocking and donate unwanted books.

“We were so surprised when someone donated the bookshelf but because it is bigger it does sometimes look empty.”

“Recently uptake has improved but the book-swap idea still needs to be nurtured and remembered.

“It is also important to highlight the sharing etiquette – take a book, leave a book, if possible, in return – so that the shelf remains full and lively, providing a little micro-library of shared reads for the community.”

Ms Farrokhzadeh, who helped set up the High Barnet bookshelf, said she first learned about the initiative while campaigning with the “Save Barnet Libraries” campaign against reduced hours and self-service automated access.

“The main purpose of these book swaps is sustainability and accessibility of knowledge and culture in a society increasingly producing waste and becoming more and more privatised.

“They are a shared community experience, especially in these times of difficulty and chaos.”