Local librarian has good read on range of books

Jan Johnston will offer reviews on Sundays starting this week

By Courtney Sherwood, Columbian freelance writer

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Jan Johnston on books

Review: Bizarre Botanicals

photoJan Johnston, who is in charge of selecting new books for the Fort Vancouver Regional Library system, this week contributes her first review for The Columbian’s book page.

(/The Columbian)

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Jan Johnston loves books, and starting this week she hopes to share that love with Columbian readers.

For years, library staffers have shared a list of a few new adult and children’s acquisitions on The Columbian’s book page every Sunday. Johnston will continue to provide that list, but she’s also going one step further by offering insight into a different book each week — many that are new, but also some older books that readers may have overlooked.

This week she chose “Bizarre Botanicals: How to Grow String-of-Hearts, Jack-in-the-Pulpit, Panda Ginger, and Other Weird and Wonderful Plants,” a book about gardening on the wild side.

“I like to focus on books that aren’t heavily reviewed,” Johnston said. Readers can expect a lot of nonfiction write-ups, with occasional contributions about fiction as well.

Her aim is to provide a quick, light-hearted review each week.

“I’m hoping to make people laugh with this, so I tend to look for books with unusual titles or funny subjects,” she said.

As collection development coordinator for the Vancouver Regional Library System, Johnston is in charge of the team that acquired 79,537 books, 3,935 sound recordings and 5,278 DVDs last year — and that doesn’t include the library’s electronic presence, which features more than 50 electronic subscriptions and research databases. With all that exposure to new arrivals, Johnston should have no trouble finding material to review.

Though she’s a lifelong reader with fond memories of childhood trips to the library, Johnston did not set out to work with books.

After earning undergraduate and master’s degrees in English, she originally set her sights on a teaching career. She shifted course in early adulthood and opted to pursue a second master’s to earn her credentials as a librarian.

Johnston joined the Fort Vancouver Regional Library System 16 years ago, and has been in her current position since 2006.

Her reviews for The Columbian will also be posted on the library’s You Better Read blog, online at http://youbetterreadnow.blogspot.com.