Trolls Targeted This Librarian. Now He’s Quitting To Rediscover His Library Joy

Mychal Threets has always been proud to be a library kid. The Fairfield, California native was homeschooled by his mother and spent so much time in the Solano County Library that he genuinely can’t remember the first time he walked through its doors. But he does say that most of his core memories happen between those walls, like the time he brought his cat in for a pet parade. 

“I was an unusually arrogant little library child,” Threets, 33, tells Rolling Stone, laughing. “I was so happy to bring my cat and show her the place I loved. I was so proud. I thought she was the only animal who had gotten a ribbon and then my dad picked us up and was kind enough to tell us every other kid and animal had also gotten a ribbon. So it was a very good grounding exercise from a very early age. And ever since then, I’ve loved libraries.”

It’s stories like these, bursting with warmth and genuine affection for the library’s role in the community, that took Threets from an average librarian to a beloved star on TikTok. Usually crowned with his signature afro and bedecked with colorful shirts to show off his book-themed tattoos, Threets began posting on TikTok in 2020, but in the past year, his following has ballooned to 700,000 — with dozens of his videos about “library joy” and stories about who he calls his “library kids” going viral on the app. 

But with unexpected fame also came something else Threets never wanted: unwarranted and harmful criticism. First beginning on X (formerly Twitter), popular engagement-bait accounts began cross-posting Threet’s videos, suggesting he was “weird,” had developmental delays, was autistic, and in some wild cases, had a “dark energy” and could be a danger to children. Threets has publicly responded to all of these insults with kindness, encouraging his followers not to harass anyone and accepting apologies with a gracious smile and Mr. Rogers quote. But he made shockwaves online when he announced to his followers that he would be quitting his job at the library. Threets tells Rolling Stone the harassment has been devastating to his mental health, but he’s not stepping down because the trolls won. He’s stepping down to make sure his love of the library survives. 

“It’s been so difficult seeing and hearing about all of that on social media over the last several months. It hurts very badly to your soul to be bullied in person or on the internet,” Threets says. “I was raised by my library, so I wouldn’t just make a decision to leave because of cyberbullying. I’m honored to have this platform to highlight library workers and literacy, it’s all I’ve ever wanted to do, but my mental health honestly just started to suffer.”

Threets says that since he was eight years old, he’s suffered from a combination of anxiety, depression, insomnia, and panic attacks all things that have resurfaced in big ways not just from the bullying, but from the new pressure his TikTok platform puts on him. And he knows he’s not alone. Threets points to librarians and other public-facing roles in the community, like teachers and journalists, all of whom operate in such necessary roles in the community that people can often feel added pressure to not fail. 

“It’s added significant stress to not let anybody down. I’ve had three three mental breakdowns in the past several months, over feeling pressured. Feeling like I’m gonna let people down. Like I’m betraying them, be it library users, be it my community, be it my family, be it my own mental health check team, or my best friends. It’s feeling like I’m not good enough, like I’m not doing enough,” Threets explains. “ All of those different things lead to so much pressure and is what lead to my decision. I tell people day in and day out that your mental health does matter. And how can I say that honestly and genuinely if I don’t do it for myself?” 


While Threets’ last day at the Solano County Library — his library — will be March 1, he tells Rolling Stone that he has no plans to stop advocating for library kids and their adults. In March, he’ll co-host his Library Afro Revolution Day, a free book drive where he and activist Blair Imani Ali will provide the community with free books about loving and caring for your natural hair. He’ll also be making a series of videos for PBS as their “resident librarian.” And of course, he’ll spend his break visiting other libraries in his area, but for the first time in 10 years, he’ll be just a library kid again. 

“I think so often just because of the struggles in my head, I’m so worried about so many people in my life all the time I don’t want to bog them down with my sense of misery. So I’ve kind of almost attempted to push people away,” Threets says. “So I’m going to invite people back in. I currently am not okay, but I am on the path to okay with some wonderful people who save my life so often. I believe I am ready for joy. And I don’t know how it’s going to find me but I’m so excited for the journey. You never know, maybe one day I can return to being a full-time librarian again.”