A San Francisco Bay Area librarian says he believes libraries will save the world.
In one of several viral videos, librarian Mychal Threets recalled the joy he felt when he saw a child bring a Spanish-language book to their busy parent. Although the parent replied that they didn’t know Spanish and asked the child to wait a few minutes so they could find a different book they could read together, another child ran up to the first child, saying: “I think I know Spanish! Can I help you read this book?”
Threets said that the second child’s parent approached the first to apologise, explaining that the second child does not know Spanish, but he “just loves people”. Then a third, slightly older child came up to the children, telling the kids that he knew Spanish and could read them the book. The librarian noted that the three children ended up reading the book together.
After the three children went their separate ways, Threet said in the video: “The kid who knew Spanish goes up to their grown-up and says, ‘Grandma, did you see me?’ The grandma puts their arm around the kid and they’re both just smiling big, gigantic smiles.”
In an interview with ABC, Threets explained that many of his viral videos about the different types of people he has met while working at a Bay Area library highlight “library joy,” community, and resources that libraries can provide to the communities they serve. He said that his goal is to share what goes on between the stacks, including the funny things children say as well as the tough moments, like with a frustrated adult who Threets was able to get through to.
“People are remembering their library, people are getting library cards or visiting their local library, they are thanking their library staff,” he told the outlet. “I’m honoured and can’t believe that people are getting as much joy from the videos and stories that I got originally.”
With blatant political efforts against library funding sweeping the nation and the systematic banning of books centered around the experiences of people of colour and the LGBTQ+ community, Threets said that supporting your local libraries is more important now than ever.
“We’re just trying to celebrate one another,” Threets said. “I grew up loving books. I’m a true bookworm. But there weren’t a lot of books by authors of colour ... And now, all these library kids get a chance to see themselves on the pages. And it’s not even necessarily about Black culture, Asian culture, Hispanic culture - it’s just that these characters happen to be Black. They happen to be Asian. They happen to be in a wheelchair.”
He continued: “I’m not saying that the library grownups shouldn’t have authority or access to what their kids are reading to make sure it’s appropriate for where they are in life ... But when you’re banning books, what you’re trying to do is you’re trying to take away the book for everybody else.”
From helping a child with dyslexia to providing shelter to an unhoused person who was a regular visitor, Threets said that a library can be a valuable community resource beyond recreation, with some libraries hosting free services including social workers, mental health professionals, notaries, and pro bono lawyers for legal advice, classes and workshops among other activities.
“Libraries are one of the last third spaces, there are no expectations,” Threets told the outlet, referring to the theory by sociologist Ray Oldenburg that says that places beyond home and work are essential to people finding a sense of community. “The library is for everybody, where everybody belongs.”
Later in January, the American Librarian Association will reportedly be giving Threets an I Love My Librarian award sponsored by the Carnegie Corporation of New York. He was one of 10 librarians selected from a nationwide pool of 1,400 nominees to win the association’s I Love My Librarian Award for Outstanding Public Service.
The Independent has contacted Threets for comment.