This feature originally appeared on the Library as Incubator Project in February 2012.

The Library as Incubator Project heard about librarian-singer Rita Meade through a Twitter contact and immediately contacted her to learn more about her and the band she performs with, Lost in the Stacks. Rita kindly answered our questions in this interview. - Laura

Please tell us a little bit about yourself (education, work, background, etc.)

I’ve been a full-time children’s librarian for Brooklyn Public Library for almost four years now. Before that, I was a children’s librarian trainee on Long Island while I went through library school. I have a Master’s Degree in Library Science from Queens College, as well as a Master of Arts in Teaching English from Stony Brook University. I love being a librarian! Every day is different, and despite what people may think, there’s never a dull moment at the library.
 
How did Lost in the Stacks come to be?
The band was originally formed in 2004, and it has evolved and changed over the years! Here’s the backstory, according to Jack McCleland, founding member and lead guitarist:
A great blues harmonica player who was librarian but who also played with many famous blues musicians (Muddy Waters, Snooky Pryor etc) died and I was asked to put together a band with staff from BPL (there were/are a lot of musicians) to play at his memorial in the library.  I knew him professionally as a musician before we both discovered we both were librarians working at BPL.  We had met in various blues clubs around NYC.  So I put together a band of library staff.  We even had Adam Gussow, a well known blues harmonica player, sit in with us that day.  Anyway, it sounded good and I thought we all thought we should keep it going.  So, we grew and added/subracted members, mostly BPL staff and that’s were we are today.  We’ve now kind of grown beyond BPL.  We have non-librarians and non-BPL people.”
Lost in the Stacks perform at Nuyorican Poets Cafe.

Lost in the Stacks perform at Nuyorican Poets Cafe. Photo by Elizabeth Meade.

Current Band Members:

Rita Meade: vocals
Clyde Kerlew: vocals, bass, tenor sax, harmonica, random instruments
Richie Araldi: vocals, drums, percussion
Jack McCleland: guitar, backing vocals
Steve Stickney: 6- and 12-string guitar
Sharon Tidwell: flute, percussion
Matt Cole: alto and baritone sax, percussion
Harold Stern: trombone, percussion
Kid Java: bass, blues harp
Larry Videlago: keyboards
Where and what does Lost in the Stacks play?
We play at Brooklyn Public Library branches and at library advocacy events, such as “Love Your Library Day” held at the Central branch of Brooklyn Public Library, and at the annual rally for “National Library Week” in City Hall Park where the city council comes out and speaks in favor of NYC libraries and against library budget cuts. As for non-library venues, we have played at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe in the East Village (and we have a gig coming up on the 11th there at 9pm!) Our first time there was a lot of fun because Roscoe Orman (a.k.a. Gordon from “Sesame Street”) came up and sang a song with us. It was a children’s librarian’s dream come true! Lost in the Stacks has also played as hospital functions, Keyspan park in Coney Island, senior centers, and library branch events. As for the music itself, we have in our repertoire a mix of jazz standards, blues, rock, and even some pop songs. Of course, we give everything our own unique spin.
Lost in the Stacks perform at Nuyorican Poets Cafe. Photo by Elizabeth Meade.

Lost in the Stacks perform at Nuyorican Poets Cafe. Photo by Elizabeth Meade.

Any library-inspired original pieces?

We do have several original songs on our list – “Who’s Foolin’ Who?” and “Don’t Try to Call Me” are fun rock songs that were written by Jack McCleland. We also have a few original instrumental pieces written by Matt Cole, our saxphone player. As of right now, however, none of the songs are strictly library-related! Maybe that will change in the future.
 
We’ve run across many artist-librarians. Do you think there is something about the field of librarianship that attracts many creative/artistic people?
Yes, I definitely think the field attracts artistic types for a reason. Librarianship is ultimately about sharing ideas and coming up with creative ways to do just about anything – from advocacy to programming to storytimes to dealing with the public. I feel lucky to have met so many diversely talented people in this line of work, and I feel especially lucky to be able to create and share music with the members of Lost in the Stacks!
Some links:
Video:
Rita Meade is a children’s librarian at the Brooklyn Public Library. You can read about Rita’s library adventures at her blog, http://www.screwydecimal.com.
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