Following Renee Swartz’s long tenure as the chair of the New Jersey Center for the Book and Gus Friedrich’s interim term as chair, the Board is delighted to announce that the Wil Mara has been named Chairman, and Sharon Rawlins, Vice Chair for Communications of the NJCB. While neither Mara nor Rawlins is a stranger to the NJ library community, please read on to learn more about them and their visions for the NJ Center for the Book.
Noted author, Wil Mara, has written both fiction and nonfiction, for children and adults. His 2013 hit thriller Frame 232 won the Lime Award for Excellence in Fiction and was a finalist for the national Christy Award. And the 2014 feature film Draft Day, starring Kevin Costner and Jennifer Garner, was based on his 2006 novel The Draft. In 2019, he launched the new supernatural series ‘Twisted’ for middle-grade readers noted for their easy readability and popularity with the most challenging of all students—the reluctant readers.
Mara’s appointment as the new Chairman of the Center follows ten years as a member of its Executive Board. During this time, Mara created new stories, writing, and artwork for the popular ongoing ‘Jersey Trackers’ online serial. He is an associate member of the New Jersey Association of School Librarians, the creator and facilitator of the ‘Myth of the Reluctant Reader’ lecture series, and the host of the ‘Voice of American Libraries’ podcast. He is a past recipient of the Literary Lion Award, and in 2020 he became New Jersey’s Author of the Year. More recently, he was interviewed on both News 12 New Jersey and PBS to discuss the increasingly controversial topic of book banning.
As the Center’s chair, Mara looks forward to several new initiatives, such as expanding the organization’s profile, increasing funding, broadening award programs and hosting podcast interview with authors and illustrators.
Sharon Rawlins is a longtime NJ Center for the Book board member who, prior to her position on the Center’s Board as Vice Chair of Communications, was the liaison to the Center from the NJ State Library. At the State Library, she is the Youth Services Specialist in the Library Development Bureau, a position she has held since 2007. In her role at the NJ State Library, she is the statewide coordinator for the summer reading program in public libraries and assists youth services library staff by providing them with grant opportunities, resources, best practices and readers advisory. She works hard to forge beneficial alliances with other state agencies and organizations working with youth. In 2019, she was recognized for her many contributions to libraries when she received the NJ Library Association’s Librarian of the Year Award and by the Center as a Literary Lion.
As a member of the Center’s Board, she has faithfully represented the NJ Center for the Book for many years at the Library of Congress National Book Festival in Washington D.C. by highlighting notable NJ authors writing for both youth and adults to promote NJ’s rich literary heritage. She hopes to continue to inform, inspire and engage people of all ages to discover and nourish a love of literature in all of it forms through future events sponsored by the NJ Center for the Book.