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TikTok Defends 'Mychal the Librarian,' Confronting Online Hate with Empathy

Screenshots of TikToks by Mychal Threets frame an image of him in a library, wearing a t-shirt that reads "Bans off our books."

If you grew up a bookworm, or maybe even a social outcast, Mychal Threets, a Bay Area librarian who has become a social media star, knows what that’s like. 

And his mission is to make the library — and the digital world — a better place for everyone.

The 33-year-old’s joyful approach to reading and social inclusion has made him popular on TikTok, where he posts book reviews, tips for getting the most out of the library, day-to-day anecdotes about “library friends,” and his signature “mental health checks.” 

Threets is the supervising librarian at the Fairfield Civic Center Library in Solano County, California, which he frequented when he was homeschooled as a child, according to the New York Times.

Though he works in the Bay Area, Threets brings the library to the rest of the world, donning brightly colored clothes, an unmistakable Afro, and a bright smile, in his regular videos. 

He even has a tattoo of a library card belonging to PBS’s famous aardvark, Arthur Reed, who popularized visiting the library for a generation of young people, crooning “having fun isn’t hard when you’ve got a library card” in the late 90s.

The lyric has become Threets’ TikTok bio.

Mychal Threets, a Black man with an Afro, sits in a library in a blue sweater.
Mychal Threets does his best Mister Rogers impression in his library. Photo courtesy of Mychal Threets/Instagram

The joyful librarian, who has amassed a following of over 500,000 recently fell victim to his virality, when a cyberbullying campaign targeting him gained traction on Twitter (Or, X).

The offending post included a video of Threets with the caption “people are getting weirder.” But the comment section is where the most painful words were spoken.

“Some of the comments in this Twitter thread are some of the cruelest things I’ve read in a long time,” Threets shared in a video confronting the hatred with empathy and kindness. 

He said that many of the comments made fun of his voice and mannerisms — and that he wouldn’t repeat them because “they just don’t need to be heard by anybody.”

Some people coming to his defense in the comments even wrongfully concluded that he is autistic, and though Threets said he loves many autistic “library friends,” he reminded his audience that he himself is not autistic.

Despite the vitriol thrown his way, Threets was calm and thoughtful in his video.

A screenshot of a TikTok by Mychal Threets, where he shows off his library card tattoo
Threets shows off his library card tattoo in a video that was later circulated by cyberbullies.

“I am talking about this because I want people to remember that sometimes people have their worst day, and they are really struggling in life. Sometimes, what that results in is they say very mean, very cruel things about other people — which is not okay,” he continued.

He ended with a reminder for himself and for others.

“I hope you remember, as I am trying to remember, that when people are really suffering, sometimes they resort to meanness, cruelty because that’s what they feel about themselves,” Threets said. “And I hope those people have a much better day tomorrow. I hope they experience kindness. I hope they experience joy. I hope they remember that they still belong at the library.” 

Over 3 million viewers have been amassed since Threets posted the video on December 31. Not only has the post gained over 24,000 comments of support, but other creators have made videos about Threets’ important work.

@mychal3ts Quite a few people messaged me “mental health check” before I became aware of that Twitter thread, and I just want to say, “THANK YOU!” 💚 #BookTok #LibraryTikTok #Storytime ♬ original sound - mychal

While some folks stuck with a more playful message of “We ride at dawn,” or comparing the creator to Mister Rogers or LeVar Burton, others wanted to reaffirm why Mychal — who always shows kindness and compassion — deserves the same in return.

“Mychal makes some of the most wholesome, joyful, and informative content surrounding libraries,” Whitney of @thewokemama said in a video. “As a former library kid — now a library adult who is raising a library kid — as a person who has personally benefited from library adults, was raised by teachers, reading specialists, … I want to thank you for your work.”

Others made videos in support, having just discovered Mychal on the heels of the controversy. 

“The light that oozes off this man…” one creator, Lisa Woods, posted, on the verge of tears. “Do not stop doing what you are doing because it means so much.”

Perhaps most thoughtful of all, TikTok creator Brandon Tweedy, of @regularevolutionary, explained that many young Black children — boys in particular — have experienced trauma in library and reading spaces, being bullied for their inability to read. 

This trauma “told that young Black boy that they did not belong in that space and that they had nobody there that would fight for them and with them to belong in that space,” he said in a video.

But Mychal has proven to be someone who makes sure people know they belong in the library.

“When it comes to Mychal, who we all know unquestionably is doing generational curse-breaking-level work at that library, and deserves to be commended for it, to a lot of people, Mychal also represents a certain level of tenderness and acceptance that they were not only not given, but were actively given the opposite,” Tweedy continued.

“While we are not only defending Mychal, as we should, I think it’s also important that we make the Mychals of the world less rare to the people that need a Mychal.”

It seems clear that Threets will continue to inspire the next generation of librarians. Last year, he was among 10 librarians chosen by the American Library Association to win the I Love My Librarian Award for outstanding public service.

“Thank you for supporting the library. Thank you for supporting books. Thank you for supporting joy. Thank you for supporting me,” Mychal said in a new TikTok, following the outpouring of support. “2024: We’re talking the word ‘weird’ back.”

Header images courtesy of Mychal Threets and the American Library Association

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