The Fiddler on the Roof in the Kew Gardens Hills branch of the Queens Library wasn’t only in the library’s CD and DVD racks one recent Friday afternoon — the fiddler was on the roof, too.
As part of a challenge he issues every year to boost enrollment in the branch’s Summer Reading Program, children’s librarian Daniel Meyer appeared atop the building for 10 minutes on Aug. 29 — near the end of the library’s summer season — dressed as the famed fiddler from the play based on Sholem Aleichem’s writings about the fictional shtetl Anatevka. On his head, a worker’s cap; on his face, a long beard; in his hands, a fiddle.
OK, the cap was from a costume shop, the beard was false; the fiddle was plastic, playing tunes when Meyer pressed a button.
The two dozen patrons, adults and children, who gathered on the street as Meyer capered above them, throwing down bubble-wrapped books and beach balls and other items as gifts, were satisfied, he says.
Meyer, 39, had announced that he would do the stunt if at least 1,500 people signed up for this summer’s reading program.
Why did he do it?
Meyer, who was born in Texas and raised in Connecticut, has worked at the library 11 years. He’s part of a small group of librarians in the independent Queens Library system who have staged similar stunts in the past five years to publicize various library programs. “It’s fun for us.”
He’s already shaved off half his beard and half his hair (enrollment in that summer’s reading program had not reached its goal) and dressed up as Cinderella. The ideas are part his, part patrons’.
The kids love it, he says. “They get to embarrass me a little bit.”
Meyer, who is single and religiously observant, and who wears a kipa at work, says he’s no ham. “I’m really quite shy.” But, he says, his annual stunts give him the chance to be “goofy.”
This year, he wanted to introduce a slight element of danger. Something on the one-story library’s roof. For Meyer and for the residents of the neighborhood, which has a large Orthodox population, bringing in the Fiddler was natural.
But, he says, the Sholem Aleichem play transcends ethnic barriers. “I don’t think you have to be Jewish to appreciate ‘Fiddler.’”
His electric fiddle didn’t play any “Fiddler” standards, no “Matchmaker, Matchmaker” or “If I Were a Rich Man,” just Bach and “Old McDonald” and some children’s melodies, but the folks down on the street couldn’t hear.
Meyer’s stunts are a hit at the library, says Susan Wetjin, branch manager. “They’re great for the library. They create suspense. They’re offbeat. They’re something that appeals to kids.”
What will follow Fiddler in ’12?
“I have to think, what’s more ridiculous than this?” Meyer says. “I’m sure someone will suggest something.”