Sara Zarr

Sara Zarr: Libraries are essential to Democracy

"Free public libraries are something that makes our country great."

The library was an extremely special place to me when I was growing up.

I grew up in San Francisco in the seventies and basically my dad was around, but  my mom was pretty much supporting in the family and functionally she was a single mother.

We didn't have money, we've relied upon hand-me-down clothing, food stamps. So the whole idea of buying a book was completely foreign to me probably until college, when I had to buy books for school. So all my reading came from the library. 

I remember sitting it these very low, round tables at a library in the Richmond District, where I lived, and taking the little golf pencil and filling out the slip taking it to the desk, and it was amazing to me that you could go and get free books, as many as you can carry, and come back the next week and get more. 

I still think that the free public libraries are something that makes our country really great.

I still have physical memories of books like Joan Aiken's "The Wolves of Willoughby Chase." It definitely opened up a whole world for me. 

I live in Salt Lake City. We have a fantastic library. I don't have kids, but I take myself to the library, a lot actually.  My husband and I are both heavy library users. There's one within walking distance from our house and we're in there several times a week.

And then the main library downtown is architecturally gorgeous, and I spend time there with other writer friends.  We work on our books. 

I do wander the shelves and things just catch my eye that might apply to what I'm working on. I like being at the library and working and knowing on the same floor are books that I admire, say a Robert Cormier book, and if I'm just lost in a moment in my writing, where I'm not sure what to do next, I can go grab it and look at it for inspiration.

I like doing events there and going to the book festival. So it's definitely kind of literary center of Salt Lake and of my life. 

Like I said I think that free public library system is something that makes our country great and is really important for democracy. So it seems like library funding should be a priority.

I think that parents should be engaged with what their children are reading and they certainly have a right to participate in their kids' decision making and if there are certain things they don't want their kids to read, that's their right. But they don't have the right to make that decision for other people's kids, which is sort of what happens when the book is challenging or removed, although I hesitate to use the word "banned" or "censorship," because of other places in the world and throughout history where artists have literally been stopped from working by the government, where we still have access to the books somehow.

I definitely think it gets tricky when you're making decisions that at are based in your value system, or your morals, that impact other families and other people's kids with different values and morals.

I have a book coming out called "How to Save a Life," and I'm very excited about it.  It's got two narrators, two teenage girls. One is pregnant and one is the daughter of the woman who is adopting the pregnant girl's baby, and their worlds collide. 

How to Save a Life

Story of a Girl


Once Was Lost.

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Book Title: 

How to Save a Life

Library Name: 

Salt Lake City