The Rotary Club of the Studios of Elstree and Borehamwood meet twice a month on a Tuesday evening in the studios bar of Elstree Studios, from 7.00pm for a lively and fun early - evening meeting

Book Swap

.“Please choose a book, enjoy your read and swap for another”

The Rotary Club of The Studios of Elstree and Borehamwood, working in conjunction with GTR Thameslink and First Impressions, had the idea to promote reading in the community, by organising a Book Swap scheme at Borehamwood and Elstree railway station. This is in line with one of the core goals of the International Rotary Club to promote literacy around the world. 

Book Swap Logo

The Book Swap was the idea of Rotarian Irmine Mason, who said, “I have often seen similar schemes working in France as well as some train and tube stations and other public places in the UK. Reading plays a huge part in opening one’s mind to different experiences, beliefs and cultures as well as encouraging people to use their imagination to travel in space and time.” 

Studio Rotary Club Book Launch 2019


Irmine has been working with fellow Rotarian Helen Stammers, Chair of Community and Vocational Committee, to plan the project, raise the funds, source and order the equipment, collect the books, organise the launch and ensure the scheme runs smoothly in the future. “I joined Rotary for the opportunity to work for the good of our community,” said Helen. “I could see it was a catalyst for proposals such as this to develop from an idea to a working project. The Book Swap has been a lot of work but absolutely worthwhile for the end result of seeing people happily choosing a free book from the shelf. Their positive responsemade me proud to have worked with Irmine to make her idea a reality.”

Irmine Mason (left) and Helen Stammers (right) 


Once a project plan was produced, Past President, Sandra Parnell, and Club Secretary, Pat Strack, supported us fully and have continued this support throughout. Sandra said she was delighted to join club members at this launch of the Book Swap, stating “Irmine and Helen brought this plan to the table when I was President and we all agreed it to be a great idea.”

We were honoured to have our Town Mayor, Cllr. Simon Rubner, officially launch the scheme on Saturday 7th September 2019. Cllr. Rubner, a daily commuter himself, had seen similar schemes successfully running around the world and was very pleased to have one starting here in Elstree and Borehamwood. 

Elstree & Borehamwood Town Mayor Cllr Simon Rubner

The Book Swap offers a selection of books for people to borrow from the shelf, read on their journey and return to swap for another. This encourages people passing through our railway station, bus passengers and all other members of the public, to enjoy a good book, free of charge. We will be providing a selection of books on the main shelf in the ticket hall and, in due course, more books in the waiting room on Platform 1.

There had been a previous scheme set up by the Library. This was no longer running so our first task was to ask if we could take it over, rethink the scheme and start afresh under the responsibility of the Studios Rotary Club. Jocelyn Walker, Library Manager was very supportive and gave us valuable insight into her experience of running the scheme. So too was Bob Redman of First Impressions. Bob, who has worked very closely with GTR in the past, helped guide us through the process and supported us by covering the cost of the signage design and arranging its production. On behalf of First Impressions, Bob said “we support the efforts of the Studios Rotary Club to run a Book Swap at the station and urge station users to take full advantage of this initiative.”

With a major station refurbishment in progress, it was good timing but also a very busy time for Station Manager, Marc Asamoah. Though under much pressure throughout, Marc has been hugely supportive of the Book Swap, both in principle as a positive service for his station users and in providing the practical aspects of building the shelf and putting up the signage. He has also allowed us to use a prime location in the ticket hall, which will ensure everyone who wants to can access the books and donation box. Marc stated, “I think the book exchange is a great idea and would like to thank the local community for supporting us with this. Elstree has a new station and this will add still more value for our passengers. I had been asked by quite a few people if there was going to be a book exchange so when the Rotarians came forward with their proposal it was perfect timing.”

To maintain our stock, we welcome donations of unwanted books in good condition (preferably novels plus children’s reading and picture books). The initial stock, of over 500 books for the launch, was from friends and fellow Rotarians. A special thank you to Ann Goddard who gave us a huge selection. To ensure the scheme has a constant turnover of books we need to keep collecting. We have bought four book donation boxes located at:

· Elstree and Borehamwood railway station - next to the ticket hall bookshelf

· 96 Shenley Road - at the far end of the café area

· Morrisons, Sterling Corner – by the checkout tills

· Fairway Hall – in the reception area

Kindly allowing us space for these boxes were Peter Windsor, Manager at 96, Angela Gaskin, Community Outreach Champion at Morrisons and Huw Jones, Town Clerk at Fairway Hall. These locations are ideal for members of the public to use to donate their unwanted books and we thank them all for readily agreeing to support our scheme in this way.

All the work carried out to initiate and develop the scheme, and the ongoing maintenance, has and will continue to be carried out on a voluntary basis by Rotarians. However, there were inevitable set up costs: the bookshelf, signage, book donation boxes, bookplates, stamps, book storage boxes and a comments book. We are pleased that going forward the ongoing costs are very low as we need only to buy bookplates for newly donated books.

The funding for the set up was from a variety of sources. Our first point of contact was our own Studios Rotary Club. The Rotary London District Trust Fund matched the club contribution. Thank you to David Palmer Trustee of DTF who guided us to this funding and John Lee, Chair of DTF who approved the grant.

We approached the Hertfordshire County Councillors covering the Elstree and Borehamwood area. They each contributed from their Locality Budget Scheme to pay for the bookshelf, which is of library standard so should last for many years, and the sign above the shelf. We would like to thank Cllr. Morris Bright, Cllr. Susan Brown, Cllr. Caroline Clapper and Cllr. Alan Plancey for their generous financial support and encouraging words.

We also approached the Hertsmere Borough Councillors covering Elstree and Borehamwood and are pleased to thank Cllr Cynthia Barker, Cllr Glenn Briski, Cllr Susan Brown, Cllr Harvey Cohen, Cllr Victor Eni, Cllr Jeremy Newmark, Cllr Alan Plancey, Cllr Meenal Sachdev and Cllr Farida Turner who each kindly donated £50 from their WIIS funds and again were very supportive in their correspondence.

Current President of The Rotary Club of The Studios of Elstree and Borehamwood, Nick Male, said, "We are delighted by the response to this exciting new venture. People still love books and we are fostering this love of literature. Rotary is here to serve and this is a great new way for us to do it.” Nick wittily added, “We have turned the page on a new chapter in our story.”

We hope this scheme is welcomed and well used, and encourages people to pick up a book that brightens or enlightens their day. Books can broaden our minds, reduce stress and allow us to walk in the shoes of others. As Mary Schmich said, “Reading is a discount ticket to everywhere.”

Happy reading.....