- T. Allan Smith
- Stand-up Librarian Meredith Myers stopped by to visit Richard Mori, one of the book vendors at this weekend’s Florida Antiquarian Book Fair, when he was at the St. Petersburg Coliseum for an antique fair recently. Her Nancy Drew-inspired attire matched Mori’s collection of Nancy Drew mysteries.
Long before she became the Stand-Up Librarian, Meredith Myers was just a girl who loved books growing up in St. Petersburg, a fifth-generation resident of the city.
Reading “was a family affair,” she said, and every year she’d join her mother and aunt at the Festival of Reading, back when it was still held at Eckerd College.
A former celebrity publicist-turned-comic who has spent time in New York and Los Angeles, Myers eventually decided to use her love of literature as the basis for her comedy act.
Now her career has come full circle: She’s moved back to St. Pete and, in recent weeks, has been running around town as spokesperson for this weekend’s 33rd annual Florida Antiquarian Book Fair.
The book fair, the oldest and largest of its kind in the Southeastern United States, runs this evening through Sunday, March 16 at the St. Petersburg Coliseum, and draws independent booksellers from around the country.
“It’s such a wonderful event,” Myers said. “I’m honored to be a part of it.”
After Myers graduated from the University of Central Florida, she embarked on an eclectic career. She worked in radio and then as a catering manager at Tropicana Field when it first opened in 1998 and at the Performing Arts Center.
Then in 2000, she decided to pursue her dream of living in New York City, and headed north for a job in public relations.
At first she represented consumer products, and sports teams and figures, but she quickly worked her way up to musical artists and actors.
“I was a publicist for Whitney Houston during her whole ‘crack is whack’ interview,” Myers said. “I said to my boss, ‘I don’t think this is a good idea. I think she still has a drug problem.’ But she didn’t listen to me.”
She represented artists such as Diana Krall and Billy Gilman, when he was performing with Michael Jackson, and also served as a publicist for X-Men 2 when the movie came out. She also worked with the then unknown actor Jeremy Renner, who has since been nominated for two Oscars.
“I worked with him at the beginning when nobody knew who he was,” Myers said. “Nobody had heard of Jeremy Renner before.”
At the time, his movie Dahmer, about the serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer, was just coming out.
“When I met him I thought, this guy’s really creepy,” she said. “Everyone was like, You know, he’s not really Dahmer. But I hustled for him, telling everyone, ‘You’ve got to meet this guy, you’ve got to meet this guy.’ Now look at him today.”
Despite his film’s subject matter, Renner wound up being incredibly sweet and talented, she said, and the two became friends. But for the most part, she said, “there I was in New York working with famous people and watching certain people behaving badly.” So she tried as much as she could to work with up-and-coming artists and performers.
“I didn’t enjoy working with people really famous,” she said. “That meant I was really just a publicist, and there was a lot of handholding and a lot of cleanup. I wanted to work with people who were doing good for society, really building something that meant something, who were creating something good for the community.”
In 2002, she began to do stand-up on the side. People always told her she was funny — “That doesn’t always mean you should be a comedian!” — so she started to hit open mics around Manhattan. Often she’d cull material from her misadventures as a publicist to the stars.
“I thought [stand-up] was a good way to get things off your chest without getting fired for them,” she said.
The following year, she wrote an off-off Broadway one-woman show, Like a Publicist, the name inspired by Madonna’s “Like a Virgin.”
“I decided to create my own opportunity, so I wrote my own show,” she said. “It wasn’t just about being funny. I wanted to send a message, showing the machine behind how people got famous.”
She moved back to Florida in 2004, and her mother suggested she become a librarian, since she’d always loved books. So she entered the University of South Florida’s library science master’s program online, and while enrolled, moved to Los Angeles in 2006 to pursue stand-up and look for a library gig.
She also got involved with fundraising for and promotion of the West Hollywood Library, a $64 million project, and performed at several events leading up to its construction. In fact, her first time performing as the Stand-up Librarian was for the Friends of the West Hollywood Library.
To promote the West Hollywood Book Fair, a fundraiser for the new library, Myers interviewed many of the authors showcased at it — a tactic she’s brought home with her and used to promote the Florida Antiquarian Book Fair.
In West Hollywood, Jackass alum Steve-O had just written a book. During an interview with him, Myers asked him what the wildest thing he’d ever done in a library was and was more shocked to learn he’d never even had a library card. So she issued him his first library card during the book fair.
Working with the West Hollywood Library “was one of the greatest joys of my life,” she said.
But in 2012, Myers moved back to St. Pete uncertain of what she wanted to do next.
“When I was younger, I didn’t want to live here,” she said. “But when I came back, St. Pete saved me. It offered me all these opportunities.”
She continues to focus on and hone her Stand-Up Librarian act, encouraging literacy through her performances.
“My audience is not necessarily people using a library,” she said. “I’m trying to get people who aren’t, to use it.”
Myers also launched Stand-up Librarian Designs, where she makes and sells book-themed accessories.
And of course you’ll be able to find her at the Florida Antiquarian Book Fair. She’ll be opening the event this afternoon at 4:45 p.m. with a performance on the steps of the Coliseum.
The book fair is held at the St. Petersburg Coliseum, 535 Fourth Ave. N. It runs from 5 to 9 p.m. on Friday, March 14; 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday, March 15; and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., Sunday, March 16.
Cost is $10 for a three-day pass or $6 for Saturday or Sunday. Free admission for children under 12 and students with ID. Free parking.