Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Deptford Lounge Opens

In these dark times for public services, and libraries in particular, it is good to see something new opening. The Deptford Lounge, which opened this week in Giffin Street, is part of a bigger building project that includes shared spaces with the neighbouring Tidemill Primary School. 

On the ground floor there is a spacious library, as well as plenty of study space including public ICT facilities. Technically it isn't a new library as it replaces the one previously located in Wavelengths on the same road, but it is a better space (OK I always want more books, but I like the old school random piles of musty tomes that deter all but the hardened biblophile).

There is a cafe - Unity Coffee - run by the Camden Society, a voluntary organisation 'to support the human rights of people with disabilities'. For the first week, hot drinks only cost £1 (a cappuccino will cost £1.85 from then on). I tried the coffee and it was good!

The Lounge has unusually long opening times  -  Monday-Friday: 7am-10pm and Saturday & Sunday: 7am-7pm.

Some people have argued that with the digital age, libraries will become a thing of the past. It is perhaps true that over time the role of borrowing paper books may diminish - though I can't believe it will die out completely. But what will always be needed will be social spaces where people can read, study, and access information and stories in a warm, comfortable environment without having to spend money. Not forgetting of course public toilets which will no doubt also draw people into the Deptford Lounge from the market and the high street. 

Deptford Lounge is on facebook. See also reviews by Crosswhatfields, Brockley Central and Deptford Dame

Deptford Lounge and Tidemill School

Alongside the building of the Deptford Lounge, the adjacent site (the old Wavelengths car park) has been redeveloped as a new site for Tidemill school. Some of the facilities in the Deptford Lounge are designed to be used by the school when it is open and for wider community use in the evenings and weekends. Since building work started Tidemill has become an Academy school (from September 2011), despite a vociferous local campaign against this. The school now gets its funding directly from the Government rather than via the Council, and the Academies Act 2010 requires that when a school becomes an Academy the land and buildings have to be transferred from the Council to the Academy trust (the new company set up to run the school). In this case the land gets transferred from Lewisham Council to Tidemill Community Academy Trust via a 125 year lease (the land would transfer back to the Council if the school ceased to be an Academy on that site). All of this makes the sharing of  Deptford Lounge facilities between the school, the Council and the wider community more complicated. Whether it will make much difference on a day to day basis remains to be seen.

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