While there are not many celebrity librarians out there, Rita Meade certainly counts as one. By day, an employee of the Brooklyn Public Library, by night a children’s book author, library-themed band (Lost in the Stacks) frontwoman, and host of the Book Riot podcast Dear Book Nerd.
What is it like being a librarian on the internet?
Overall, being a librarian on the internet has been a positive experience. When I first started blogging and tweeting, my goal was one of advocacy—I wanted to reach the kind of person who had the “Huh, libraries are still a thing?” mentality and show them that YES, libraries are still a thing and they are still a thing in a very big way. I also wanted to show the more humorous and poignant side of a librarian’s job through funny kid quotes and discussing the interesting and sometimes intense situations that occur in libraries on a daily basis. Though it probably shouldn’t be anymore, it’s always surprising to me how some people have NO idea what a librarian’s job actually entails, and I’ve tried to use my web presence to raise awareness and highlight the relevance of libraries in modern society.
Tell me about the origin of your new book! How did it come to be?
My forthcoming picture book Edward Gets Messy [coming out from Simon & Schuster this September] is about a very particular pig who likes everything to be just so—until one day he realizes he can’t control everything and learns to adapt and make the best of a situation that he previously would have viewed as a crisis. The story basically started as an exploration of my own anxiety issues, so it has a theme of letting go of fear and trying new things (but without being too message-y, because what kid wants to read that?). It’s also a love letter to the arts and education, which I think are so important and need to be part of kids’ lives instead of cut from school curricula. I’ve been so lucky to work with an amazing team including my agent Brooks Sherman, my editor Kristin Ostby, and the illustrator Olga Stern. It’s truly been a group effort and I’m very proud of how far that little pig has come.
Tell me about Dear Book Nerd. How does this work, your book, and your 9-5 librarianship work together?
Hosting the Dear Book Nerd podcast on Book Riot has been a lot of fun and really quite educational. Real listeners write in with real bookish-advice questions, and I’m always amazed by the depth and scope of the topics they bring up. There is a different guest co-host for every episode and the person is usually related to the book business in some way (agents, authors, editors, etc.). My guests are always interesting and wise, and I always learn something new with each show. It’s my hope that the listeners come away having learned something or at least having been entertained. It might sound a bit saccharine, but I ultimately became a librarian because I wanted to help people, and the podcast and the picture book all kind of tie into that theme.
I also need a status update on Lost in the Stacks.
Lost in the Stacks is a band comprised Brooklyn librarians (and a few talented non-librarian musicians) and we get together every once in a while to perform (usually at library functions, but we’ve made appearances at some venues around the city, including the Nuyorican Poets Cafe.) Our music is a mix of jazz standards, blues, and original and classic rock, and we always have a good time no matter where or what we’re playing. All the band members have busy lives, so we haven’t had a gig in a while, but our next one is scheduled for May 21st at Brooklyn Public Library’s Central branch for a children’s author/illustrator festival. It should be a lot of fun, and I’m sure we’ll be rehearsing again soon. I sing with the band and not only is it a great way to blow off steam after a hard day of work, but it’s nice to be reminded that we have interests outside of library work!
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