Joseph J. Arcieri
Former Enoch Pratt Free Library librarian and ‘walking encyclopedia of knowledge’ was a lover of film and music
Joseph J. Arcieri, whose career as an Enoch Pratt Free Library librarian spanned three decades, died July 22 of COVID-19 and heart failure at Gilchrist hospice center in Towson. The Stoneleigh resident was 76.
“Joe put many years into this institution, and he was very important to us,” said Caprice Di Liello, manager of the Enoch Pratt’s Maryland department. “He was the go-to person when there were complicated questions about law and politics. He was so kind and, despite his encyclopedic knowledge, never made you feel as if you were somehow less than he was.”
Joseph James Arcieri, son of Lawrence Arcieri, an employee of the Connecticut Department of Public Works, and Dorothy Cantwell Arcieri, a homemaker and secretary for Travelers insurance company in Cockeysville, was born and raised in Hartford, Connecticut, where he grew up in an Italian American neighborhood, family members said.
He was a graduate of St. Thomas Seminary, a high school in Bloomfield, Connecticut, intending to study for the priesthood. He graduated from St. John’s Seminary in Brighton, Massachusetts.
In the early 1970s, Paul A. Twist, worked with Mr. Arcieri at the Mugar Memorial Library at Boston University.
“Back in the day, we worked together at BU, working with people and shelving and stocking books,” recalled Mr. Twist, who retired in 2016 from Emerson College, where he had been librarian for 28 years.
“Joe was very studious, and he had been to seminary, and we had literary pretensions,” he said with a laugh.
Mr. Arcieri and several like-minded boon companions would meet at Jacob Wirth Co. on Stuart Street, a German restaurant in downtown Boston that served its first beer and German dishes in 1868. It was the second-oldest continuously operating restaurant in the city until its closing in 2018.
“We would regularly meet at Jacob Wirth’s to talk about literature, and we spent many happy hours together sipping beer and talking books and politics,” Mr. Twist said. “It’s what we did before we discovered women.”
Mr. Arcieri was working at the Boston University library when he met his future wife, the former Janice MacGregor, a therapist at McLean Hospital in Boston, who was about to leave to take a job as an assistant professor of therapeutic recreation at the old Eastern Washington College, now Eastern Washington University, in Cheney, Washington.
“We met three weeks before I left,” Mrs. Arcieri said. “He was the most interesting man I’d ever met.”
Mr. Arcieri quit his job at Boston University and pursued his future wife, whom he was in love with, and married her in 1975.
“I was the best man when he married,” Mr. Twist said.
While living in Washington, Mr. Arcieri earned a master’s degree in library science from the University of Washington in Seattle. After he was unable to find a job in Washington state, he took a job as a librarian in Kenner, Jefferson Parish, Louisiana, where one of his responsibilities was driving the library bookmobile into the rural countryside, where residents didn’t have access to a brick-and-mortar library facility.
His wife finally joined him in Kenner after taking a job with Catholic Charities as an adult day care director in New Orleans.
While working in Kenner, Mr. Arcieri obtained a master’s degree in political science from the University of New Orleans. To be closer to family in Baltimore and Connecticut, the couple moved to a home on Kenleigh Road in Stoneleigh, where they raised their two daughters.
In 1986, Mr. Arcieri began working as a librarian at the Enoch Pratt Free Library downtown on Cathedral Street, “where he helped thousands of people over the years with research, sources for term papers, and finding various books, articles and topics related to political science,” wrote a daughter, Katie Arcieri Perschy, of Arlington, Virginia, who is a reporter S&P Global Market Intelligence, in a biographical profile of her father.
“Having worked at Pratt since 1989, I knew your dad well,” wrote Gordon E. Krabbe, Enoch Pratt chief operating officer, in an email to Ms. Perschy. “He was one of our consummate librarians, always helping his customers to the best of
his ability. I know I asked him reference questions on more than one occasion and he was always so helpful.”
“Joe was very reserved and unassuming, but he had a sharp sense of humor and was such a great guy,” Ms. Di Liello said.
He retired in 2016. Mr. Acieri was a lover of books, music and film, and studied the work of philosophers Jean-Paul Sartre and Friedrich Nietzsche .
Mr. Arcieri “wrote two papers on philosophic topics that recently received copyright from the U.S. Copyright Office,” his daughter wrote in the profile.
“He was truly a walking encyclopedia of knowledge who knew a little about everything, and he could talk about anything,” Ms. Perschy said in a telephone interview.
“Joe could talk on many different subjects and could bring many different conversations together,” Mr. Twist said.
Mr. Arcieri stressed the importance to his daughter of writing well and expanding their vocabulary by learning esoteric words.
“He was a wonderful conversationalist who could talk easily about current events and a variety of topics, from sports to politics to movies and music,” his daughter wrote.
His wife, who spent 30 years at the Maryland State Office on Aging, where she was a contract administrator, also retired in 2016.
The couple enjoyed exercising at the Towson Y, visiting friends in New England and spending summer vacations at Lake George in New York.
Mr. Arcieri was a communicant of St. Pius X Roman Catholic Church in Rodgers Forge and was an active member of the Sons of Italy.
A wake will be held for family and friends from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Wednesday at the Mitchell-Wiedefeld Funeral Home on York and Overbrook roads in Rodgers Forge. Plans for a graveside service to be held at Dulaney Valley Memorial Gardens are incomplete.
In addition to his wife of 45 years and his daughter, Mr. Arcieri is survived by another daughter, Alice Arcieri Bonner of Ellicott City; a sister, Joan Kravsow of Rocky Hill, Connecticut; four grandchildren; and many nieces and nephews.