NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ: It was announced late yesterday that Wil Mara has been appointed the new Chairman of the New Jersey Center for the Book, with Sharon Rawlins, of the New Jersey State Library, to serve as Vice Chair. The Center is affiliated with both the United States Library of Congress and Rutgers University, in particular their celebrated School of Communication and Information.

For more than two decades, the New Jersey Center for the Book has “…advanced a dynamic literacy agenda, championing its definition as the ability to read and write while extending it to include literacies emerging in the 21st century.” It has focused particularly on the rich and ongoing literary heritage of the Garden State, in particular its students and educators, its talented authors and illustrators, and its many literary landmarks. The Center’s founder, Renee Swartz, had an inestimable impact during her tenure, initiating countless programs that sustain to this day, along with a supporting Board of Directors who have given selflessly of their time and considerable talents to ensure that the Center’s mandate was faithfully fulfilled. In the years ahead, the Center’s new leadership will carry Renee’s remarkable legacy forward with new initiatives designed to further the organization’s reach and influence.  

Wil Mara has served on the Center’s Board for many years. He has also been an author since the mid 1980s and has more than 340 books to his credit. His 2013 novel Frame 232 was a bestseller that won the Lime Award for Excellence in Fiction. His 2006 novel The Draft became the hit movie Draft Day starring Kevin Costner and Jennifer Garner. And his 2005 novel Wave won the New Jersey Notable Book Award. In 2019, he launched the supernatural series ‘Twisted’ for middle-grade readers through West 44 Books (a division of Rosen Publishing), which has earned high praise from Booklist, School Library Journal, and librarians from around the country, as well as the Gold Standard Award from the Junior Library Guild. He was also an editor and production executive inside the publishing business for over twenty years (Prentice Hall, Scholastic, Harcourt Brace) and the creator and facilitator of the ‘Myth of the Reluctant Reader’ lecture series. His awards include the Literary Lion Award in 2019 and, from the New Jersey Association of School Librarians, the New Jersey Author of the Year in 2020.

Sharon Rawlins, also a longtime Board member for the Center, has been the New Jersey State Library’s Youth Services Coordinator for over fifteen years. She has supported other librarians statewide through her work with the annual Summer Reading Program, the Collaborative Summer Library Program national initiative, and the fall Youth Service Forum. She has also forged critically beneficial alliances with a diverse collection of organizations—from the Franklin Institute Science Museum to the National Girls Collaborative Project. She also serves as the State Library’s representative to the New Jersey Association of School Librarians, attending both their meetings and their annual conference. She has been a steadfast presence at the annual National Book Festival in support of the New Jersey Center for the Book, and she plays an active role on the Garden State Book Awards committee. In 2019, she was recognized for her tremendous contributions to the state when she received the New Jersey’s Librarian of the Year Award.

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