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The Honesty Library which provides a peaceful haven at a Norfolk shopping centre

PUBLISHED: 17:48 20 January 2019

Kim Archer enjoys a book at the honesty library at Castle Mall. Picture: Matt Farmer

Kim Archer enjoys a book at the honesty library at Castle Mall. Picture: Matt Farmer

Archant

It is a quiet haven amid the hustle and bustle of a busy shopping centre.

Norwich Honesty libraryNorwich Honesty library

Which is why the Honesty Library at Norwich’s Castle Mall is proving a popular draw with shoppers looking for a time-out and some new reading material.

Donated books fill the shelves, and visitors are encouraged to help themselves, leaving chapters or change in return.

As online shopping hits the high street hard, shopping centres are having to become more of a destination, tempting people in through its doors with the promise of entertainment.

A new façade and the transformation of Timberhill Terrace into a restaurant destination the mall hopes to become a different destination.

Norwich Honesty libraryNorwich Honesty library

With a bowling alley under construction and a climbing wall awaiting planning permission, it has also started with the stores that have become amusement rooms.

Castle Mall manager Robert Bradley said: “We want to remind our shoppers of the simple pleasures that can be found when you switch off, sit down and get lost in something simple.”

The Puzzle Room is a quiet version of what used to be the Norwich City store, and gives visitors a space to settle in with jigsaws.

While at the Honesty Library bean bags are placed next to a table of children’s books, and the adult novels cross a wide range of genres.

Honesty LibraryHonesty Library

Many television-related hardbacks fill shelves, which are heaving with biographies and pulp fiction.

The donations bin overflows, with books bulging between its bars. There is even a service guide for a Fiat Punto.

The library’s range is hard to describe, with everything from Catherine Cookson to Cheryl Cole.

Among hundreds of books are 10,000 Baby Names and a selection of Spanish science textbooks.

Purnell’s Nature Encyclopedia has shelf space along with two different copies of Sharon Osborne’s autobiography and a book titled Taxes 2006 For Dummies.

Among the oddities, Kim Archer has found a personally relevant book. East of England Show Catalogue 1985 is not the sort of book charity shops would take, but in the mid-afternoon she nostalgically flicks through the companies she used to work with.

“It’s a bizarre thing,” she said of the library, “I do wish there were more chairs”.

Earlier, shoppers Martin and Margaret came by to drop off a spare copy of Rudyard Kipling’s Humorous Tales. Martin couldn’t remember where it came from, but Margaret had encouraged him to make his first visit to donate the book. “My first impression is that it’s a good idea, raising money for charity,” said Martin.

A hospital technician on her way to work, was slightly frustrated by the lack of sci-fi, and more so by the PA announcements. “This is supposed to be a place for reading,” she told me, “but I can do without them constantly nagging”.

She points out a book she enjoyed before, leaving a review on paper inside, and said there could be more seating for adults.

“It’s not for me, but maybe someone could donate a sofa,” she said.

Ms Archer drops by roughly once a week, on her tours of the city’s culture. She said: “It’s amazing when you’ve got the time. I’ve seen parents bring in kids, often on a Saturday.

“It’s a sort of escape from the noise and music.”

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