By Martie Thompson

The annual county-wide reading event, St. Johns Reads, has been moved to January from the typical February this year. For its 16th year, the St. Johns County Public Library System has announced that “The Library Book,” by Susan Orlean, will be the featured book.

“‘The Library Book’ is like a love letter to libraries,” said Donna Braasch, reference assistant at the Bartram Trail Branch Library. “The Los Angeles Public Library was burned to the ground and to this day, they don’t know who did it. The event, in 1986, was overshadowed by the Chernobyl disaster, which was the same week.”

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Braasch said while the arson investigation is a huge part of the book, there are “layers and layers” of story. 

Bartram Trail Branch Library Branch Manager Maribeth Beck offered some insight as to how the books are chosen for St. Johns Reads each year.

“There is a committee of staff from all the library branches that meets monthly,” Beck said. “The committee members actually read the books under consideration and then recommend the top four or five books for all committee members to read. The top vote getter is chosen as the St. Johns Reads book for that year.”

Beck said the committee does take suggestions from the public. She said the book chosen is typically vital to current events and has programming opportunities — St. Johns Reads month includes a variety of programs inspired by the chosen book throughout the month, many of them virtual this year.

“Library staff will present everything from crafts, to cooking, to history … as well as art programs and interviews,” Beck said.

Following are some highlights of scheduled events, all virtual and all free of charge, thanks to the generous sponsorship of the Friends of the Library: 

Jan. 8, 2021: Oil pastels with Kasha Fahy to create a local landscape. Art supply kits are available at the library for pick up. This event is funded by a grant from the Barbara Kay Foundation.

Jan. 20: Library interview with Ryan Dowd, executive director of the Hesed House. Dowd is well known for his work training librarians on how to work with homeless patrons.

Jan. 29: Main event: interview with John Szabo, city librarian for the Los Angeles Public Library.

Visit for more information about all the events as well as links to sign up.

The finale programming event will once again be the St. Johns Reads 5k Race. Beck had the idea to hold the race for the first time last year.

“It’s a good family event that lets us tie our love of literature and fitness together,” Beck said.

The second annual Lace Up for Libraries Run will be held in Nocatee on the morning of Saturday, Jan. 30 at 8 a.m. Both a 5k and a one mile fun run will be offered and social distancing measures will be observed. Those who register for the 5k will receive a shirt and the top 200 finishers will receive a specially-designed medal which commemorates this year’s St. Johns Reads book. All proceeds go to future St. Johns Reads programs. There is also a virtual participation option; visit for more information.

“The race is possible due to our sponsors,” Beck said. “Major sponsors are VyStar, Nocatee, and Friends of the Library. We are still seeking additional sponsors and race day volunteers.”
“The Library Book” is available at all St. Johns County Public Libraries in print, e-reader and audiobook versions. Place a hold for the book online or call your local library to place a hold.

Photo courtesy St. Johns County Public Library
This year’s medal for the Lace Up for Libraries Run features a burning library.

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