Loving libraries shouldn’t be a radical act, yet it sure is in our current cultural climate.
The daily news cycle is rampant with distressing stories from around the country about increased book bans at schools and public libraries. A newly released report from the American Library Association has revealed that nearly half the book challenges it tracked between January and August of this year took place in public libraries, up from just 16 percent during this same period the previous year. Unsurprisingly, most of these challenged books were written by or about people of color or the LGBTQIA+ community. Meanwhile, NBC recently reported that Florida school districts removed roughly 300 books last school year, and just this week, a book at a library in Alabama was added to a banned list simply because its author’s last name is “Gay.”
It’s a frightening time for readers, bookworms, and library lovers everywhere. Luckily, heroic librarians across the nation continue to work tirelessly to serve their communities in the face of these forces. Mychal Threets, a supervising librarian at Solano County Library in Northern California, is one such hero who has taken his adoration of libraries to TikTok to spread book joy with the masses.
Threets has amassed nearly 175K followers on his account, @mychal3ts, whose bio reads: “Having fun isn’t hard, when you’ve got a library card.” He shares infectiously enthusiastic videos in which he recounts wholesome interactions he has or has witnessed while working at the library. He also promotes the countless services and offerings available at public libraries, all of which can be unlocked with the magical powers of a library card. With the mounting backlash libraries face, positive voices like Mychal’s are increasingly critical in protecting libraries and reclaiming the narrative.
Inspired by his efforts to spread library love, I reached out to Threets to dig deeper into his mission to stand guard for a critical institution under attack. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
When did you first fall in love with libraries? At what point did you decide you wanted to become a librarian?
There has been a love of libraries ever since I can remember. As a homeschooled kid, the library has always been part of my life. My mom turned to the library to gather resources for my education: books, music CDs, educational videos, and fun videos. I got my first library card at the age of five because my family was checking out so many library items we needed the additional library card to increase the number of books we could take home.
One of my earliest library memories was of Solano County Library’s pet parade. I took my family cat, Jewel, and was so excited when she won a ribbon. Little “library me” did not realize that every kid and their pet got a ribbon. I just thought it meant we were library special, and I’ve never forgotten it.
I stumbled into becoming a librarian— it was never something I saw myself doing. On a whim, I applied after a librarian at the Fairfield Cordelia Library kindly showed me how. Thankfully, they hired me as a library shelver. The shelver job showed me how much I loved working for the library and how comfortable I was in that environment. It was the life for me. So, I began applying for promotions and began pursuing my education with a career in library land in mind.
I love that the public library will find something for every person who walks through the library doors.Mychal Threets
What’s your favorite part about libraries?
The people and the library things! You encounter many different people at the library, both employees and library users. You work with people and befriend people you never thought you would. People from all walks of life are beginning to become library workers. It’s very cool to be part of.
The library users are a cast of characters. Everyone can use the library at different times in their life. It’s incredible to see the diversity of people in the library together. They create a unique story for the library simply by being present. And there’s something for everyone at the library! That’s what I love! The Solano County Library has books, e-books, audiobooks, musical instruments, video games, board games, social justice book kits, and museum passes. I love that the public library will find something for every person who walks through the doors.
When and why did you start sharing your positive library stories on social media?
Sharing my positive library interactions and observations is something I first began doing as a children’s librarian for the Vallejo Springstowne Library. Visiting schools for storytime always leads to hilarious, honest conversations with kids and teachers. Preschoolers and kindergarteners are some of the most truthful, funniest individuals you’ll ever encounter. They are remarkably curious and will reveal their unhinged version of reality if you listen to what they have to say. I chose to listen. Their stories always made my day, and I thought maybe they’d make other people’s days, too.
The teachers I told about this idea thought it was great, and so did fellow library workers, so I started. There are positive, funny, wholesome library videos happening every day. I enjoy observing them and being lucky enough to tell those stories to the public to highlight the joy of libraries.
Why do you think your videos have resonated so much with people online?
There’s so much negativity in the world, especially on social media. The first library story I remember taking off was of a kid who didn’t know if I was a “boy librarian” or “girl librarian.” I was wearing a mask and had my hair exceptionally “poofy,” as people like to describe it. They asked their grown-up what I was, who was shocked (they thought I’d be offended), but I didn’t react. That prompted them to ask what I was. I responded to them both, and we carried on. I never thought that story would be so well received. It was such a simple interaction, but it showed kids’ curiosity and, more powerfully, showed that kids are being raised by people trying to learn, grow, and understand, too.
The videos I share encourage people. They aim to get people to see how much joy there is in the library. I like to think I come across as authentic in my videos; that’s my goal. I’m vulnerable in the videos and take every opportunity to speak about mental health. The videos resonate because they show the power of the local library, and people are starting to remember and believe how important it is in their lives and communities.
There are positive, funny, wholesome library videos happening every day. I enjoy observing them and being lucky enough to tell those stories to the public to highlight the joy of libraries.Mychal Threets
As a librarian, what’s been the most challenging thing about the negativity and backlash libraries are facing right now? How can people help protect their local libraries?
The most challenging thing library workers face is that the negativity and backlash make people not want to go to libraries, making kids not want to read. The banning of books makes kids think that books are bad. They don’t see the point if there’s so much trouble and drama. And who can blame them? It’s tough to exist in the book world. We’ve lost the joy, and that’s what library workers and book people are trying to get back.
You can protect and support local libraries by using them! Visit the library and attend library programs. Get a library card! Write letters of encouragement to library workers. Visit the library website and send library staff an email. Read books and listen to audiobooks. Tell your friends, family, and strangers about the joy of libraries!