With one successful #HacktheLibrary event under my belt in Mersea, myself and Colchester based cabinet maker Nadine set about catching the train to London with high hopes for a similar event to be hosted in Deptford Lounge – the library sitting within the heart of Deptford High Street and Market.
We arrived wowed by the impressive grand looking building (pictured above) surrounded by a plaza and a brilliantly cheeky mural outside. As soon as we entered the space we immediately felt a warm hug from the staff who – straight off the bat – made it clear they cared about what we were trying to do.
The building was much larger than the rural Mersea Library so as opposed to a complete takeover we commandeered the front foyer to attract people as they walked in to the space (image below).
Deptford Lounge is already so much more than a library. It’s a community hub offering an array of services including an attached school! The official description reads, “With a focus on community-led partnerships and local enterprise through learning and participation, this unique partnership will bring to the area an engaging blend of performance and creativity through an imaginative use of space.”
After a whistlestop tour to kick off with Joanne Moultan, Senior Development Manager at Lewisham Council, it was obvious that it all definitely packed a punch – we were literally asking ‘why isn’t every library like this?’ – with truly intergrated not co-located services. Gold stars all round in Lewisham.
Joanne and her team had organised less of an interactive event than Mersea with more of a Show & Tell approach – where local creative entrepreneurs and businesses were sharing a bit about what they do.
The line up included Sophie Mellor and Simon Poulter of Close and Remote, an incredible husband and wife, artist-led startup bringing their ‘Assisted History’ project along – i.e. those Blue Plaques you see dotted on historical buildings to life, utilising the latest low power bluetooth technology. This enables passers-by to access localised rich media content via a bluetooth enabled smart phone – the possibilities were endless. Very excited and one to watch.
Jay Harris a local sound artist and Will Tyas from Access to Music (above right) gave young visitors the opportunity to play with sound-making gadgets and learn about routes into sound and music as a career. Watching the children’s eyes light up is a prime example of why libraries shouldn’t be quiet spaces in my opinion – a ethos Deptford Lounge seems to be embracing too.
Technology aside, Joanne’s colleague, Council Social Media guru Julie Hall (above left) had grabbed one of the Colchester’s Waiting Room maker boxes the week before the event. She was helping visitors learn to finger-knit using Resident, Alex Davis’s Finger Knitting Maker box.
This was invaluable, as we road-tested our kits with a new audience. Learning what did and didn’t work. Parents and children abound there was no where to hide. Lots of happy faces later, they appeared to work – but we walked away with insights on how to improve for our next print run.
Julie was an inspiration from a point of view of community engagement. Lewisham are the first local authority we’ve met who are doing social media and online conversations properly. Community Engagement seems to be something libraries – often – struggle with.
Julie explained, “The library is not only for those people who can physically get into our building, but also residents who are housebound or who live in a neighbouring rural village. Social Media provides a way in which to reach people in their own homes or as they go about their daily lives, increasingly with mobile phones in hand.”
Julie also provided a wealth of ideas about how we could augment the Waiting Room Maker Boxes as a concept, using platforms such as Pinterest, where communities of interest can form around boxes and unique hashtags to share further reading, hints, tips and project ideas. We’ll definitely be giving that a go.
Overall Deptford Lounge went really well. In true Common Library style we went to contribute our knowledge and walked away with a wealth of ideas ourselves.
I look forward to seeing a greater level peer to peer interactivity in future sessions, but it was fantastic to see the staff really onboard with the Maker Box concept from senior management through to front desk staff alike.
The event ended with a slow walk home to the tube station. We came across another Waiting Room a few doors down from the library and popped in for a coffee. Like it was meant to be.
Image: Street art near the entrance to Deptford Library