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  • Mara and Rawlins Provide New Leadership to the NJCB

    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.


  • Announcing Miss Rumphius 2024 Applications

    The NJ Center for the Book is pleased to announce that applications for the 2024 Miss Rumphius Award are now open. In the spirit of the title character in the National Book Award winner by Barbara Cooney, the Center is seeking creative and engaging programs that enhance literacy in our communities. Eligible candidates must be employed in NJ as a librarian, library staff, library student, certified educator, or teacher assistant. A $300 honorarium is offered to the winner(s). More information about applications can be found here.

  • Renee Swartz, Board Chair Steps Down

    After 23 years as Founding Chair of the New Jersey Center for the Book, Renee Swartz is stepping down. The Center’s Board of Directors hosted a luncheon in her honor on July 19th to thank her for her leadership, dedication, and extraordinary service over these 23 years.

    In 2001 New Jersey was not one of the 43 states that had a Center for the Book, which are affiliates of the Library of Congress. With support from First Lady Laura Bush, New Jersey became number 44 because Renee made it happen. And, having secured a commitment from Rutgers University School of Communication and Information to host the Center, New Jersey was now joining its fellow state affiliates. Her vision, creativity, and perseverance lead to a broad range of collaborative programing in support of the Center’s mission.  Literary Landmarks, Letters About Literature, and the Miss Rumphius Award were signature programs. Many special events, such as Food for Thought, Science is FUNdamental, the Clothespin Doll Project, Reading=HOPE x CHANGE and Poetry Indeed attracted large audiences, especially school children of all ages.  The most recent project “The Jersey Trackers”, an e-book mystery series written and illustrated by NJ authors and artists, has been praised by school children and teachers alike. Our brochure, Two Decades of Promoting Literacy Across the State of New Jersey, documents the history of Renee’s leadership.

    Renee has received many honors and accolades over the years, having served on committees and commissions on both state and national levels promoting literacy. The NJ State Library Advisory Council, the American Library Association Advisory Board for the National Office of Information Technology Policy, Chair of the NJ Delegation to the White House Conference on Library and Information Services, the Institute of Museums and Library Board, and the Monmouth County Library Commission are just a few.

    While we will miss her on the Board, we thank her for leading the Center in support of its important mission to promote reading, literacy, and libraries across the state of New Jersey.


  • 2022 National Book Festival

    The Library of Congress held its National Book Festival in person this year on Saturday September 3, 2022 in Washington DC for the first time since 2019. This year’s Festival features more than 120 authors, poets and writers to celebrate the festival theme, “Books Bring Us Together.”

    Every year each of the Affiliate Centers for the Book chooses a children’s book that in some way represents its state’s literary heritage as a “Great Read from Great Places.” The author may have been born or lives in that state, or the book is set in that state, or there is some other connection. This year the Affiliates chose an adult book as well.

    The New Jersey Center for the Book selected The Singer and the Scientist by Lisa Rose, illustrated by Isabel Muñoz (Kar-Ben Publishing, an imprint of Lerner Publishing Group) as their children’s book pick. This picture book, a National Jewish Book Award finalist, details the enduring friendship that developed between Albert Einstein and singer Marion Anderson. Due to her race, Anderson was refused lodging after performing in Princeton in 1937, so Einstein, a big fan, invited her to stay with him. They found they had a lot in common based on their shared experiences of racial discrimination.  Read more:

  • Miss Rumphius Award Winner Announced

    The NJ Center for the Book presented its Miss Rumphius Award for 2022 to Kate Davis, Youth Services Librarian at the Jersey City Free Public Library for her program “Fun Fridays.” The award was presented at a reception during the NJ Library Association’s annual spring conference.

    “Fun Fridays” focused on how the JCFP library could support student learning during the COVID pandemic when students were at home primarily.  Working with their colleagues on the Jersey City Office of Special Education’s Team, Davis created a zoom program that encompassed a variety of content, such as virtual field trips, story times, reading, art, exercising/dancing, etc.  The program was publicized broadly with posters, flyers, and on internet platforms, such as YouTube. The program was so popular and had such a wide reach that it required increased the zoom capacity for more than 3,000 attendees. About 1 in 8 Jersey City Public School children attend this program.  Especially noteworthy is that the collaborative outreach for programing on this project was broad and creative.  A collaboration with the Liberty Science Center resulted in a virtual field trip.  Twenty outside performers  were engaged and performed, such as Mario the Magician, and the children’s TV stars Carly Ciarrocci and Emily Borrameo.

    Ms. Davis suggests that this program can be replicated by any librarian partnering with their local schools to create programming that meets their community needs, and then connecting them to fun, high energy and educational performers, interesting places, or interested individuals and groups. The program started in the 2020-2021 academic year (and the 2021 summer session). Once students returned to classrooms, the program was reduced to once a month.

  • A New Episode in the Jersey Trackers Series Has Arrived!

    The New Jersey Center for the Book is proud to announce that a new installment in its E-Book series about the Jersey Trackers was released to the public on this website on May 18thThe Jersey Trackers and the Missin’ Mathematician. A world famous mathematician visits Rutgers University to lecture at the dedication of a new Applied Mathematics Building and he disappears.  Will the Jersey Trackers be able to find him?

    This book will join two other e-books in the Trackers series, The Imagination Tree Mystery released in March 2016, and The Greatest  Mystery in All of History, released in November 2018.  Written for New Jersey readers of all ages, the mystery series follows a children’s librarian and his book club, consisting of six curious, inventive and adventurous young readers – the “Jersey Trackers.”  Each book focuses on New Jersey with a theme intended to support the curriculum. All chapters are written by New Jersey authors and the illustrations are by New Jersey artists.

    Audio versions of the first two Tracker stories are now available on the website! Click here.

  • Celebrating Two Decades of the New Jersey Center for the Book

    In celebration of its two decades of promoting literacy across the state, the Center has published a new brochure highlighting its major programs and events. The publication was first released to the public at the Literary Landmark event at the Two River Theater in mid-November. The full text of the brochure with accompanying photos can be viewed on our website: click here

  • Literary Landmark Award 2021 to Two River Theater

    Marking the anniversary of its 20 year history as a dynamic force celebrating the diverse cultural contributions made by distinguished state organizations and institutions, the New Jersey Center for the Book, an affiliate of the Library of Congress, presented its coveted Literary Landmark Award to The Two River Theater in Red Bank on November 14, 2021 at the Theater. A reception followed the performance of Radio Gulf.

    Cited by USA TODAY as one of the 10 great regional programs in the nation, Two River has contributed substantially to the  artistic landscape of our state and beyond since its founding in 1994 by remaining dedicated to its mission of producing American and world masterpieces as well as new works, including plays, musicals, and festivals. Two River also cultivates a new generation of theater goers through its innovative art education programs that introduce youth to the theater and create opportunities for them to engage with famed theater artists. For more information about the Two River Theater visit:

    In accepting this eighth Literary Landmark from the New Jersey Center for the Book, the Two River Theater joins other earlier recipients such as the Newark Public Library, the Walt Whitman House, and the Rutgers Institute of Jazz Studies.

    Featured during the event Radio Golf  is one of ten creations by the renowned Black playwright August Wilson, winner of the Tony and Pulitzer Prizes, and a member of the American Theater Hall of Fame. Two Rivers has previously staged six other Wilson works including Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, made into a film and winner of Oscar awards. Radio Golf was the final installment in Wilson’s ten part Century Cyclewhich chronicles decade by decade his series of 10 plays penned before his early death at age 60.

  • 2021 National Book Festival

    The Library of Congress will hold its National Book Festival virtually from September 17th-26th. It’s theme “Open a Book, Open the World” will include live conversations with authors every day, and much more. For the Great Reads portion of the event the NJ Center for the Book has chosen as its state’s representation The Chance to Fly by Ali Stroker and Stacy Davidowitz, an inspiring story of a NJ theater-loving girl who uses a wheelchair for mobility who’s determined to get a role in her town’s production of Wicked. Read more about the Festival here…

  • Wil Mara 2020 New Jersey Author of the Year

    The NJ Center for the Book is thrilled to announce that our Board Member, Wil Mara, has been chosen by the New Jersey Association of School Librarians as the 2020 New Jersey Author of the Year! Wil is a veteran of the publishing industry with more than 300 books to his credit. He has penned both fiction and nonfiction for all ages, written over a span of more than thirty years and released through some of the biggest houses in the world, including Rosen, Macmillan, Dorling Kindersley, Scholastic, St. Martin’s Press, Tor, and others. Most recently, his ‘Twisted’ series has become a hit with parents, teachers, librarians, and middle-grade students, including those in the challenging reluctant and hi-lo categories.

    Wil also served inside the industry as an editor, production manager, and executive for twenty years, with tenures at Prentice Hall, McGraw-Hill, and Harcourt Brace. He has since entered the realm of Hollywood, now developing his ‘Twisted’ series for television with one of the leading LA-based production companies, as well as three other projects based on his published works. Peripherally, he does numerous appearances to teach writing skills for schools and other institutions, is an executive committee member on the board of directors for the New Jersey Center for the Book, the host of the ‘Voice of American Libraries’ podcast, and was the 2019 recipient of the Literary Lion of New Jersey Award, whose past winners include Gus Friedrich, Dean Emeritus of Rutgers University, and Joyce Carol Oates, National Book Award winner and Pulitzer Prize finalist.

NJ Center for the Book

The New Jersey Center for the Book is affiliated with the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress which was established in 1977 to stimulate public interest in books, reading, and libraries.

The School of Communication and Information at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey has hosted the Center’s operations since its beginning in 2002. The Center’s mission is to “celebrate books, reading, libraries and the diverse literary heritage of New Jersey.”