THE NEW LIBRARIAN Lorena Diaz takes the reins of Marathon’s public library

THE NEW LIBRARIAN Lorena Diaz takes the reins of Marathon’s public library - A woman sitting at a table in front of a book shelf - Lorena Diaz

Talk about the perfect person at the perfect time: Marathon’s new librarian, Lorena Diaz, has stepped up to fill the role at the same time the city’s new library is being constructed across the street.

“What I love about this library is the small community it serves. I get to see people all the time and learn about them,” said Diaz. “Sometimes I see them approaching the front door and I turn around to retrieve the item I know they have on hold.”

Diaz and her family — two young daughters and a husband in law enforcement — moved to the Keys almost three years ago. With a master’s degree in library science from University of Arizona, she snapped up the first available job in her field as an assistant librarian at the George Dolezal branch of the Monroe County Library in Marathon.

“I love that we have every kind of reader using this facility,” Diaz said. Indeed, it serves a broad spectrum — elementary school children, home-school teenagers, liveaboards, and on and on.”

Diaz, a native of Mexico, who moved to the U.S. as a 16-year-old, is a great fit for the city’s new library (see opposite page). Here’s a little more about Diaz:

What did you think you were going to be when you grew up? I thought I was going to be a doctor, performing surgeries. In fact, I was almost finished with a degree in secondary education to teach Spanish when I switched to library science.

Why? I like the interaction with the public, the one-on-one. And I love hunting down information that people need, like students who need an article. Or helping seniors use the internet, even type a letter. That’s satisfying. The public library is about helping the public.

Who does the Marathon library serve? Well, our biggest circulation numbers are for children’s books, and of, course, adult fiction. I think that’s great.

What do you read in Spanish? Isabelle Allende, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Carlos Cuauhtémoc Sánchez, and Jorge Ramos. Ramos is the Univision journalist, but he also writes about his experiences.

What do you read in English? Mostly non-fiction, but also anything that comes into the library. I read all of the reviews, when I’m ordering the book, too. But I like biographies. In fact, there was a waiting list for Michelle Obama’s new book “Becoming” and I couldn’t wait, so I read it in Spanish.

What do you read your children? My 8-month-old likes picture books about colors. There are no words, so we have to make up the stories ourselves.

What do you intend to read next? “Wonder” by R.J. Palacio. I think I will read that with my older daughter who is 7. (“Wonder” was adapted into a film in 2017 starring Owen Wilson and Julia Roberts.)

If you could have any superpower, what would it be? I would like the ability to time-travel or fly … to go different places in minutes.

What’s your guilty pleasure? Ice cream. Any flavor, but mainly chocolate. And cheesecake.

If you take any three items to a desert island, what would they be? (She paused for a long moment, and then spoke slowly.) Water. My husband, because he can figure anything out. And matches to start a fire. I watch those survival programs and the hardest thing to do is get the fire going.

What’s one of your passions? Cooking. Any type of cuisine — Mexican, Puerto Rican, Italian, Chinese. I know at least the basics of these. I am looking forward to experimenting with Cuban cuisine.

If you had the time to develop a new skill, what would that be? I would like to speak Italian.

Finish these sentences …

I am terrible at … decorating. Don’t ask me to pick colors. I had a hard time picking replacement carpet for the library and it’s gray!

In a crisis, I am … I think I am the one that takes control of the situation.

My husband would say I am … stubborn.

My parents would say I am … also stubborn!

Do you look like the stereotypical librarian — glasses, cardigan, and hair in a bun? No! I never wear my hair in a bun. Well, almost never …

Work begins on super high-tech new library

There will be an official ground-breaking on Wednesday, July 17 — but work on the foundation for the Marathon branch of the county library has already begun. When finished, it might be the “smartest” building in the Keys, with tons of cool features:

  • A media box. Like a Red Box, users will be able to insert a library card and get out a library item like a movie, or an audio book.
  • A multipurpose room. It could be stocked with items like a 3D printer, music and video editing software and a green screen, and maybe even a sewing machine.
  • A moveable space. The floors will be raised with wiring underneath so an individual floorboard panel can be removed and replaced with one holding an electrical outlet, to power a computer that has been brought in, for instance. Likewise, the desks and book shelves will roll so that the spaces can be rearranged to make room for events.

“We’re going to have a lot more space to do programs, to hold more community meetings,” said Marathon librarian Lorenia Diaz. “We only have one private room right now, and we share the space with our book store. And we don’t have study rooms.”

The two-story library is being built across the street from the current, 57 year old building. Estimated to cost $7.1 million, the building is built above the flood plane and rated to 200 mph winds. The 14,000-square-foot building is being constructed with funds from the once-cent infrastructure sales tax. The top floor will feature the children’s library, teen room, study center and multipurpose space. The first floor will feature the browsing library, collaboration rooms, large community meeting room and the check-out desk. In fact, there are plans to acquire laptops that library users can “check out.”

“A user can get a laptop and sit on a bench in a sunny window, or take it to a desk in a quiet area,” said Kimberly Matthews. She’s Monroe County’s director of strategic planning, but in a previous life she helped design libraries. “That feature illustrates the basic underpinning of the entire space and operation — that it’s user-centric. It’s a space that is designed to be user-friendly and the user can manipulate the space.”

“The new Marathon branch will be a customer-centric operation with flexible space that offers our community cutting edge technology. It will be a legacy building and will truly be the community’s living room,” said County Administrator Roman Gastesi.

During the lunch break of the Board of County Commissioners on Wednesday, July 17, the commissioners will participate in a ground-breaking ceremony.

Monroe County Mayor David Rice has been pushing for a new Marathon library since 2003.

“What we’ve tried to do is not build yesterday’s library, but to build tomorrow’s library,” Rice said, adding he’s pleased elementary school children no longer have to cross the highway and will instead access the facility through a back gate adjacent to the school’s playing field.

Citizens can also watch the construction of the library in real time, via a webcam. Visit and click on the current projects list to see the Marathon library. There is also a town-hall meeting planned for early August so citizens can offer input. The building is projected to be finished by July 2020 with a grand opening a few months later.


Sara Matthis
Sara Matthis thinks community journalism is important, but not serious; likes weird and wonderful children (she has two); and occasionally tortures herself with sprint-distance triathlons, but only if she has a good chance of beating her sister.