Jarvis Cocker, the man often credited with the literate pop answer to the more drudging aspects of Britpop during his heyday with Pulp, might have seemed the perfect figure to open the new library and museum in Wakefield.
© Jonathon Gawthorpe
But the singer and author himself thought otherwise. “Maybe I’m not the best person to be invited to do this,” he told a packed crowd, speaking at the launch of the West Yorkshire city’s newest cultural venue.
“I got banned from our library. I would always take a book out and then really like it and forget to take it back.
“I was, like, the worst person ever. So don’t do that, right?”
Despite saving the local council £1 million a year, the new library, which has attracted more than 6,500 visitors in its first week, holds an impressive 60,000 books, including Cocker’s own work, Mother, Brother, Lover.
“People say ‘oh well, you know, people can get all the information they want off the internet now – it’s all there, all human knowledge ever is on the internet, so why do you need libraries anymore?’” he mused, before dismissing that argument in typically charismatic fashion.
“And I think that’s a daft thing to say really, because it’s a different way that you find information in a library.
“It’s just there on a shelf, and you can go ‘mmm…that’s a nice cover. I like the picture on the front.’
“But also, when you’re on a computer looking at things you’re always aware that you could be shopping or checking an email or something like that.
“Whatever you’re looking at, in a way, it’s like a race to get to the bottom of it so you can look at something else.
“With a book you get hold of it and that’s all it does. You can’t take pictures with it, it’s not a phone.
“You can’t book a holiday. It’s got that one thing for you, and you can sit there with that thing and see it through to the end.”
Away from the shelves, his speech was swiftly followed by family workshops in a dedicated Learning Zone and a wii competiton in the teenage section.
Wet and dry play areas, 70 computers and free WiFi for library members also await new members.
“Public feedback has been very positive,” reported Councillor Peter Box, the Leader of Wakefield Council.
“I’m delighted that residents in the district will be able to visit all these fantastic facilities in one place.
“A brand new library and museum, along with a Customer Access Point and Business Lounge, will mean our customers can access all these services in just one visit.”
The Access Point offers council services for local residents, and the Lounge aims to advise people on starting up a business.
Beneath the library – where an expansive events programme includes a forthcoming visit from Doctor Who writer Robert Shearman – the museum hosts local cultural goodies, surprising facts about the city, a display devoted to locally-born 19th century naturalist Charles Waterton and a range of Victorian exhibits.
The building has been paid for by the sale of other Council premises. “A lot of planning has gone into making the building one that the public will use,” added Joanne Roney, the Council Chief Executive.
“I’m sure that they will find it both enjoyable and useful. Wakefield One will give customers improved state-of-the art services at a lower cost – a great achievement in these tough times.”
Cocker, though, remains most persuasive about those crammed shelves. “The great thing is that it gives you a use for tickets and things,” he said.
“You can use them as bookmarks. So, like, you’ve read a bit and then when you’ve got to go and do something, you haven’t got all these rubbish bits of paper hanging around in your pockets.
“Put them in, use them as bookmarks. There you go.”
- Visit www.wakefield.gov.uk/wakefieldone to find out more.
© Jonathon Gawthorpe
© Graham Lindley
© Graham Lindley