“This banning binge, this cultural purge that we’re experiencing all throughout America and increasingly here in the state of California where we have school districts large and small, banning books, banning free speech, criminalizing librarians and teachers, and we want to do more than just push back rhetorically,” Newsom said in the bill signing posted on social media.
The politics have been in the spotlight just as libraries around the country mark the annual Banned Books Week campaign, which runs Oct. 1–7 and highlights the historical and current efforts to censor books.
The American Library Association has been tracking attempted book bans for over 20 years, and its Office of Intellectual Freedom recorded nearly 1,270 attempted book bans last year — the highest number since the ALA began compiling this kind of data.
For librarians, like Threets, who are caught in the middle of divisive politics, they see their mission just as vital now. He talked about all this and what libraries have meant to him with KQED’s Brian Watt.
Here’s an excerpt of their interview which has been edited for brevity and clarity.
BRIAN WATT: You have taken your love of books and the library online. You have a huge social media following with over half a million followers combined across Instagram and Tik Tok. What made you want to do this?
MYCHAL THREETS: When I first started posting those videos, I was hoping for a thousand views. I think the first one that went “viral” was about a library kid coming up to me at the children’s desk. They said, “Is it … is it a boy librarian or is it a girl librarian?”
You could just see, the mom’s eyes widened. I said, “I’m a boy librarian.” And that story just shook up my heart, shook up my soul. I was like, “That was a funny, honest encounter; let me share it with the world. Maybe a thousand people will see it.” It took off. Millions of people saw it. From then on, I started sharing more stories on a weekly basis.
You work at the same library that you grew up going to. What does it mean to see families coming in and asking for the same books that you once asked for as a kid?
I was a very shy kid, stricken by anxiety. I’m not as shy as an adult, but I’m still crippled by anxiety and other mental health things. Books and libraries, ever since I can remember, have been my first friends. They’ve been the way that I’ve made friends [and] connections. I feel like when I get around books, get around libraries, I become a whole different person. They just bring out whatever light is inside of me. Those books and libraries have the power to pull it out.
Like you said, I got my first library card at the Fairfield Civic Center Library when I was 5 years old. That’s where I got my first library job. It’s where I’m now the supervisor. So to be able to see kids come in and ask for books by Louis Sachar and Beverly Cleary, or they want to check out Encyclopedia Brown, it’s like a dream come true. It’s a full circle moment for me.