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Borrow a tune! Brooklyn Public Library now lending musical instruments

Take a bow: A library member checks out one of the new for-loan violins on loan at Brooklyn Public Library.
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Our Library rocks!

The borough’s biggest book lender has gotten into the music business, and is giving would-be musicians an opportunity to borrow a variety of instruments from its main branch in Prospect Heights.

“It’s really cool,” said Bay Ridge librarian Rita Meade. “No one else is doing this.”

The library system debuted the city’s first instrument lending program at Central Library on May 23, allowing members to choose between one of five noise makers — acoustic guitar, ukulele, violin, electronic keyboard, and practice drum pads — which can be taken home for two months at a time, and come with practice books, tuners, and other accessories to help borrowers start rockin’, according to Christine Schonhart, assistant director at Brooklyn Public Library’s Central Library.

The program was developed as part of the Library’s annual Brooklyn Incubator, a challenge in which rank-and-file librarians try to come up with the best new idea to improve the borough’s library system.

This year’s winners were three librarians from Central Library’s Art and Music Center — Kay Badalamenti, Peter Otis, and Harold Stern — who were given $10,000 to pilot their idea, and told to report back in August, so library honchos could decide whether or not to expand the program, Schonhart said.

In this case, however, the bookworms won’t have to wait until the end of summer to know whether their ideas will be green-lit, according to Schonhart, who described the new program as instant chart topper.

“We’re clearly going to have a great story of success,” she said. “So we’re hoping to find donors interested in funding it.”

Unfortunately, that success has resulted in huge delays for borrowers, and the wait list for the library’s most popular instrument — the electronic keyboard — already stretches well into next year, according to Schonhart.

“There’s a wait list right now, we’ve had such a good demand,” the library honcho said. “It’s a great problem to have.”

To celebrate its first day in the music business, the library asked its unofficial in-house band, Lost in the Stacks, to put on a concert at its main branch, where they played tunes including “Mustang Sally” and “Someone Watch Over Me.”

The band was started by former librarian and guitarist Jack McCleland, and features numerous other past and present library workers, many of whom moonlight as professional musicians, according to Meade, who sings in the band.

“We rehearse not as frequently as we should, but we’re professional musicians for the most part,” Meade said. “I think we’re pretty good.”

Lost in the Stacks doesn’t carry its librarian theme much further than its membership, although one McCleland original called “Heard the News” does explore life as a library worker in the big city, according to Meade.

The city’s loudest librarians don’t get together that often, only playing about one or two gigs a year, but they’re always happy to support Brooklyn Public Library, according to Meade.

“Basically we’ll do anything if we’re asked,” she said.

Anyone interested in getting an instrument from Brooklyn Public Library should e-mail musicloan@bklynlibrary.org.

Reach reporter Colin Mixson at cmixson@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4505.
Posted 12:00 am, May 29, 2018
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