The Deptford Lounge opens

Odd that the brain could function on its own, without acquainting him with its purposes, its reasons. But the brain was an organ, like the spleen, heart, kidneys. And they went about their private activities. So why not the brain?
- Philip K Dick, The Man Who Japed

Deptford's dramatic new public library, the Deptford Lounge, is open. It will be formally opened to the public next month, but for now, the ground floor library is open from 7am-10pm weekdays and 7am-7pm on weekends.

We took a look around this morning. Even at 9.30am, with very little publicity, it was being well-used. The layout of the library provides nicely for quiet reading, internet research and informal meetings. While calm, it is also flooded with life and light, so that we could easily imagine ourselves spending hours there, in the way we don't with many other local libraries. A small cafe area at the front will add extra incentive to stick around.

It doesn't house a huge number of books, but the range on offer was decent and the racks allow the librarians to do a bit of curation - there were lots of self-help guides prominently displayed and at least one librarian is very keen for us all to try Philip K Dick. The children's section was great and furnished with some reading pods and they have an impressive collection of graphic novels.

It's accessible via the handsome new Giffin Square, which is nearing completion and which will become a new focal point for Deptford, drawing more people towards the glittering library. When fully operational, it will offer, according to the Crossfields blog: A hall, studio space, meeting rooms, a ball court, a jamming suite, a food technology suite, and a dining hall and kitchen that lead out onto a generous roof terrace.

The facilities are shared with Tidemill School and will be available for hire at times when the school is not using them. 

Bigger, better buildings, properly equipped, open at convenient times and shared with a local school to make sure they are fully used - this is how public services should be designed. Inspirational, aspirational and striving to surpass our Victorian heritage, rather than allow public facilities to ossify. Deptford's renaissance continues.

Click here to read the Crossfields report or here to join their Facebook group.


Anonymous said...

Lewisham are doing and have done A LOT for libraries. Massive capital investment in Deptford, Manor House and Downham, and managed to keep at least a portion of their library service in thise facilities that would have otherwise been closed.

This is the real story of Lewisham libraries, not the hysterical "They're closing everythng!!!!!" of the unhinged and the terminally ignorant.

No, I don't work for Lewisham, I am just heartily sick and tired of all the emotional rubbish being spouted by the usual suspects.

And I'm anonymous because the allies of those usual suspects do a very good line in getting personal.

TM said...

Living at the St Johns end of Brockley I gravitate towards Deptford rather than Crofton Park or Honor Oak.

This type of development can only increase that tendency. Will try to visit next weekend if the rain stops!

There is a drop in session featuring the proposed Crossfields Conservation Area on Saturday next which is also detailed on the Cross-what-fields blog. Might be worth a look.

Mb said...

Reading Pods! I want a reading pod.

Brockley Nick said...

@Anon - I agree that it was maddening that this project (and others) were often (deliberately) ignored in the debate about Lewisham's library plans.

Anonymous said...

It's a lovely new library. what makes me a little sad is the amount of money being spent by the council in many areas of the borough - refreshing high streets, new libraries, upgrading gyms and swimming pools, yet Brockley doesn't seem to be getting any major mprovements at all, other than those paid for by the community or private enterprise. It would be nice to get a decent piece of infrastructure built here for a change!

Anonymous said...

Do you know what else is maddening? this:

Anonymous said...

errr, not sure how well that link worked! but anyway...

COUNCILLORS say they are powerless to prevent an academy school moving into a brand new £20m community facility in Deptford.

At last night’s mayor and cabinet meeting, councillors voiced their disappointment at Tidemill Primary School’s decision to ignore a community campaign and become an academy this term - opting out of local authority control.

But long-standing plans to move its pupils into Giffin Street’s Deptford Lounge building next month will still go ahead, with the school’s trust set to pay only a “nominal rent”.

Councillor Helen Klier told the meeting the council still had a legal requirement to hand over the building - which includes a library, café and rooms for community groups.

She said: “It’s a wonderful building and they’re extremely lucky.”

The academy is set to be fully charged for any after hours use of the building but negotiations are ongoing over the lease and the amount payable by the council for its upkeep.

Mayor of Lewisham Sir Steve Bullock said: “It’s hugely disappointing that the school has become an academy in the face of very strong local opinion that it shouldn’t.

“It’s disappointing that this fabulous building, which was conceived as really setting the standard for community use and school use in a way which will be the model for the future, has been disrupted.”

Brockley Nick said...

@Anon1338 - why?

@Anon1336 - the Council has to prioritise and it's sensibly choosing to invest where the potential return is greatest, in its major centres such as Lewisham, Deptford and Catford. In 2012, we can look forward to improvements in Brockley Cross and they've just agreed investment in Ladywell town centre, so let's not ignore these things.

We have to make our own case.

By the way, Deptford's only down the hill. For many people in Brockley, this will be their local library.

Brockley Nick said...

PS - I know it wasn't Council money, but in terms of infrastructure for Brockley, let's not forget the small matter of a billion pound East London Line extension, which of course Deptford didn't get.

Brockley Nick said...

PPS - the Council doesn't need to spend much money on infrastructure in Brockley, but some decent resource for local enforcement and planning would be good.

Tamsin said...

Could someone clarify? It's a massive new exciting wonderful public library building but being used by a school? And if so presumably for security purposes they would have exclusive use in school hours? Or are they using a separate community hall/facility type thing part of the complex?

@Mb - there is some really lovely stuff in the children's section of the Gresswell library supplies catalogue I used to receive at work - have a look sometime and fantasise about being eight again.

Brockley Nick said...

@Tamsin - the library is a public library. But the building contains a range of other facilties. As the article explains, these are for public use (for hire) at times when the school is not using them.

Anonymous said...

It's a multi use building. The library is separate from the school but the halls, ball court etc will be used by the school during school time and available for the community to hire at other times. more info on the Lewisham website, search for regeneration/deptford town centre.
Nick, it's maddening because the school and buildings were designed to be used as a community building, the school waited until the building was 95% complete and then very swiftly 'acadamised' leaving the council with no option but to allow them the use of the building. It means that they have lots more control of the building than they would have and they (and the DoE) have paid nothing for a state of the art facility, which they will then hold up as a shining example of the Academy programme, even though it has nothing to do with the build.
The reason that Lewisham has so few academys (especially at primary level) is because the council and schools work collegiately, the turn-around of the school was not achieved solely by the headteacher...
Sorry, bit ranty but Academys get on my nerves!

p.s. see also the point that the school closed early last term in order to close up for the move and then offered parents childcare for the days they were closed at a price of £20 per day - only legally allowed becasue they're now an academy...

Brockley Nick said...

Sorry, being thick, are you saying that as a result of becoming an academy it has rights to the building that it wouldn't have had had it remained a council controlled school?

Ian on the Hill said...

*sigh* Another library with no books.

Anonymous said...

@ Brockley Nick
Deptford Lounge/Tidemill School was conceived as a partnership sharing community facilities. It's not so much about the rights to the building but conversion to an academy which has had all sorts of implications; TUPE of the staff from the local authority, renegotiation of the lease and shared facilities management and costs.

Brockley hasn't had a library since 1991 when the old Deptford Library (now Lewisham Art House) shut.

Anonymous said...

My son started school there yesterday and is very excited (well he is only 4) - he was disappointed not to be allowed to play in the roof playground yesterday though. Looks great

Anonymous said...

How did that happen - I wanted to be anonymous - not use my "Deptford Cage cricket" pseudonym

Anonymous said...

I wish the great Academy debate was separate from the library debate.

I am wondering how the two functions will sit in the same building.

Will the library be overun with boistrous schoolkids?

Danja said...

*sigh* Another library with no books.

What are all those things in the photos then?

Anonymous said...

It's great. It could do for Deptford what Peckham's award winning library has has done for that neighbourhood.

Anonymous said...

Can someone clarify for me what the difference is between a Tory academy and a New Labour academy? Aren't they much of a muchness, whether you like them or not? When Labour was in power nationally, Lewisham was quite pro-academy, but now they are Tory ones, they are opposed?

Anonymous said...

I think local authorities are miffed that academies are funded by central government and are outside of their control.

Central government obviously sees this as a definite advantage, where they might get something done to raise standards.

So I think it is a central/local government issue rather than party political.

The fact is an awful lot of money has been spent on new educational facilities which is a good thing.

With respect to the library, I remember when Lewisham library was new. It has been a shame to see how it has steadily declined. Maybe this is where some of the resources went.

Southwark has also recently opened a nice new library at Canada Water.

What exactly is the policy on libraries?

Consolidate them into a few big showcase facilities and abandon the older local libraries?

Anonymous said...

"difference is between a Tory academy and a New Labour academy?" - NL academy: taking a failing school, giving it money, seeing if a better job could be done by a body that wasnt the local authority
Tory academy: taking an outstanding school away from local authority, giving it money (taken from the central local authority fund), giving it some more money, not having to teach the national curriculum, being able to set own pay and conditions for teachers, setting own admissions criteria (in some cases), etc etc

"Central government obviously sees this as a definite advantage, where they might get something done to raise standards."
The point is that the new academies already have high standards, the crux of the issue for many people is that if for example all the outstanding and good schools in a local authority convert to academies you will be left with a two tier schooling system...

Tamsin said...

Anybody see the documentary about grammar schools on BBC4 last night?

The slightly pointed comment that the very politicians in the 1960s who themselves had benefitted by the system then dismantled it - but that is what is being covered in part two next week.

Anonymous said...

I think the underlying goal is to make every school an academy and introduce competition between schools to drive up standards.

The worry over a two tier system is therefore not a good argument against. In fact there don't seem to be many good arguments against academies.

The only people who seem to be vehemently opposed are the loony left fringe and some teachers and even they don't do a very good job of explaining why. (Although bad teachers might find it harder to stay employed in such a system and may see there pay fall behind their colleagues I suppose)

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

"competition between schools to drive up standards."
What?! Please explain to me how competition is supposed to drive up standards? how are these connected? For example: If your school is a in an area that has high levels of poverty, adult illiteracy, new arrivals/refugees, etc etc and you have a broad and non-selective admission process it is reasonable to predict that your GCSE results would not be as high a school in a middle class area with a selective admissions policy. This is not making excuses for low achievement, but if your pupils include 16 year olds who've been in the country for 2 years having had no previous formal education then probably they won't get the same GCSEs as someone at Aske's.
In fact, this was demonstrated by Aske's results in 2010 when they dropped 20%, their excuse was that this was the first GCSE cohort of pupils that had been admitted using the borough admissions criteria and not their previously highly selective one.
Competition between schools would only work if there was a equal intake of all pupils from all backgrounds. Also I'm pretty sure that the majority of teachers are more concerned with all pupils doing the very best they can do rather than which school is 'better'

Anonymous said...

I'll explain it with an example.

In a poor area there are two schools that deliver different results with a similar intake.

Competition means that the the more successful school becomes more popular and under the academy system therefore gets more funding and is allowed to expand. The poor school becomes less popular and is forced to close or merge with a more successful school (that has a better leadeship in place).

Result one big good school. Or two good schools.

At the moment there is not incentive in place for schools to improve and competition is the fastest way for things to be turned around.

Anonymous said...

"Competition means that the the more successful school becomes more popular and under the academy system therefore gets more funding and is allowed to expand."
1. Academy schools don't get 'more' funding - as they have to cover the costs of payroll, legal, facilities management etc. that would otherwise be paid for by the local authority.
2. How do schools 'expand'? space is at a premium in most london boroughs - you can't just get bigger... Also 'allowed to expand'? by who? do you believe that local authorities are somehow against successful schools?
"The poor school becomes less popular and is forced to close or merge with a more successful school (that has a better leadeship in place)."
Or... a new head/leadership team is appointed (or maybe an executive head who also oversees another successful school), working with the local authority and the highly experienced team there (made up of ex teachers/headteachers) who assist the school to raise standards, set high targets etc. See Prendergast Ladywell fields as an example of this.
Forcing a school to close is not a good thing!

Anonymous said...

Isn't it?

Closing, merging, re-inventing or replacing the worst performing schools sounds like a sensible idea.

Otherwise you end up with a 'bin' schools where pupils have the odds stacked against them by the circumstances of their birth. They propagate ghettos of disadvantage that go on for generations and cause all manner of social problems.

Local authorities always seemed powerless to stop socially ambitious parents from comandeering places at the best schools for their children and....devil take the hindemost?

Then you wonder why there is youth crime and the streets are unsafe and some areas are riven with poverty and social disadvantage.

Good schools are a key to addressing social inequality and the option of closing a school that is failing down and starting again should always be there.

Local authorities can always come up with excuses for failure and poor performance. Trying different ways of creating successful schools seems sensible. If that means removing them from local authority control. So be it. It is a positive result for the students that counts, not the interests of local politicians and teachers.

HNick said...

1) they get more funding by taking in more pupils
2) they expand by i) building more accomodation (perhaps temporary prefabs in the playgrounds) or ii) taking over other schools; or iii) setting up entirely new schools.

Coincedentally, have we seen that Haberdashers Askes is setting up a "Free" primary school?

Mariama said...

Has anyone tried to study in the so called library. It's a beautiful lounge with great facilities but no " quiet" study area :(

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