By Martie Thompson
Switzerland resident and Bartram Trail Branch Library reference assistant Donna Braasch said she’s a “local girl.” She’s a member of the Bowden family and grew up in Mandarin. Her parents first home was directly under what is now the Buckman Bridge on Scott Mill Road; the state took the land when she was six years old to build the bridge and the family moved to a home on a dirt road nearby. She said she recalls when JEA installed street lights on San Jose Boulevard (then known as State Road 13, as it still is in St. Johns County). A true bibliophile from an early age, Braasch said her mother used to take her to the Bookmobile outside Winn Dixie (now the site of Big Lots) when she went grocery shopping. She met her husband in high school, but they didn’t date until she worked after high school at Winn Dixie, first as a cashier and eventually as a general merchandise manager. She married Ron Braasch in 1983 and that’s when they moved to St. Johns County. They have three children and seven grandchildren.
Q: How long have you had a love for books?
A: I have always loved reading. In addition to visits to the Bookmobile, I remember my mother and I would ride the bus downtown to the Haydon Burns Library in Jacksonville. My parents couldn’t figure me out, since they weren’t really readers. The family joke was that I married the first man who would also sit in a room with me and read a book.
Q: How did you come to work at the Bartram Trail Branch Library?
A: After Ron and I married, we started our family. For many years, I stayed home, chased babies, and volunteered at the library, schools, and my church. When our youngest child was in high school, I was bored and knew I needed something to do. So, I saw the library had a part-time position available and applied. Getting the job was not easy; I interviewed for three different positions before I was hired, as I was always up against applicants with degrees in library science. I was finally hired in 2007 as a circulation assistant and now I’m a reference assistant.
Q: What do you like best about working at the library?
A: I understand customer service and I’m always on the patron’s side. I feel if the library can be a soft place to fall, we should try to make it that way, especially during the last six months. I love getting to meet so many people who are new to the area. I enjoy the young families and the military families and I try to make them all feel welcome. I’m responsible for a lot of the programming and I work with the groups who meet there as a kind of liaison. I also do most of the adult crafts.
I also like that I can collect items for various non-profits at the library. At the Bartram Trail Branch Library, we collect non-perishable food for Hastings, end tabs for the Ronald McDonald House, Box Tops for Education, glasses for the Lion’s Club, fabric for Dress Girls Around the World, and yarn for our knitting and crocheting groups.
Q: What are some of the precautions the library has taken in the time of COVID?
A: We are limiting the time people spend in the building and ask that family groups stay together when browsing to lessen exposure. We have computers available with time limits. Grab and Go is available for people who don’t want to come into the building. We are washing hands frequently and wearing masks.
Q: What are your hobbies?
A: I like to spend time with my family. I like to be out in nature and spend time walking in our local parks and on the beach. I read a couple of books a week. I also like to travel and no matter where I go, I always visit the local library and buy a tote bag to support its Friends of the Library group. These Friends groups are so important as they work hard to raise funds for their library and we are so grateful.
Photo courtesy Donna Braasch