Board 10 Dynamo Helps Children Learn To Read
Editor’s Note: In celebration of Women’s History Month, and in response to the firestorm created by the Oxygen Network’s new “reality” series “Brooklyn 11223,” which depicts women cursing, drinking and fighting in Bay Ridge and other neighborhoods, the Brooklyn Eagle is proud to present a new feature profiling the “real” women of Bay Ridge and their accomplishments.
Rita Meade liked working with Community Board 10 even before she signed on as a member. Meade, the children’s librarian at the New Utrecht Library, is also a member of the Dynamic Advocacy Team for the Brooklyn Public Library and would often speak at Board 10 meetings to seek support for library funding.
“The reason I got involved is because I had attended every community board meeting for a couple of years, speaking about the libraries and their needs,” Meade, 31, said.
Early on, board member Greg Ahl “was very helpful in getting the community board to write a letter to the City Council to support libraries,” she recalled.
By sitting at the meetings and watching the community board in action, Meade learned a lot.
“I found the community board decision-making process interesting,” she said, adding that she was also impressed by the members themselves.
“Everybody really cares about the community,” she said.
Councilman Vincent Gentile, who appoints half of Board 10’s 50 members, suggested that Meade apply for membership. Gentile and Meade share a love of libraries. Gentile is chairman of the Council’s Committee on Libraries.
Meade’s Board 10 membership application was accepted and she has been a board member for two years. Board Chair Joanne Seminara recently appointed her to two important committees – Parks and Youth Services, and Education and Libraries.
New York City has 59 community boards, which serve one or two neighborhoods each. The duties and responsibilities of the community boards are spelled out in the City Charter.
Each board is composed of 50 volunteers, half of whom are appointed by the local City Council member and the other half of whom are appointed by the borough president. The community boards serve as advisory panels to city government on a variety of issues, including zoning and land use. The boards also advocate on behalf of their neighborhoods to ensure that residents receive their full complement of city services such as sanitation pick-ups, pothole repairs and streetlight repairs.
Meade has become an important person in Bay Ridge, but she wasn’t born here. She grew up on Long Island. She knew as a teenager that she wanted to become a librarian.
“I worked in a library on Long Island where I grew up. I loved working there. I went to grad school for teaching, but realized that it wasn’t the right fit for me,” she said.
To become a librarian, you need more than a love of books. A great deal of education and training is required.
“To be a full-time librarian, you need a Master’s Degree in Library Science,” Meade said. “There is a lot of study involved, as well as reading literature.”
Meade earned her Master’s Degree from Queens College, a school well known for its Library Science program.
Prior to coming to the New Utrecht Library, Meade was the children’s librarian at the Paerdegat Library in Canarsie.
Since her arrival at the New Utrecht Library, at 1743 86th St. in Bensonhurst, Meade has worked to strengthen the programs for children.
She loves her job.
“We have our own children’s floor at the library. The children have their own bank of computers,” she said.
Meade creates programs for children, handles visits from classes of schoolchildren, visits schools to talk to children about the library, and makes arts and crafts projects with children.
The New Utrecht Library “is the third busiest library in the system in terms of circulation,” according to Meade.
“It’s extremely busy,” she said.
On any given workday, Meade will come across dozens of children using the computers, reading books, and writing book reports.
Her favorite book for children is The Very Hungry Caterpillar. The Harry Potter series of books by J.K. Rowling is also at the top of her list.
“I personally loved the Harry Potter books. They did foster a love of reading in children. Kids kind of grew up with the books,” she said.
Meade said she is aware of the controversy surrounding “Brooklyn 11223” and has no plans to watch the show.
“People just have to keep in mind that you should take what you see on TV with a grain of salt,” Meade said. “The women of Bay Ridge that I know are smart, educated, funny, and hardworking.”