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Librarian Shares 'The Power Of The Library' After His Interaction With A Patron Helped Save Their Life

Photo: @mychal3ts / TikTok
librarian discussing the power of the library

Books and libraries have become such an unlikely flashpoint of controversy in America recently amid efforts to censor certain types of content and books that it can be hard to remember what important roles they play in many communities.

A librarian on TikTok recently had an encounter in his library that underlines just how vital libraries can be, and how they provide so much more than books.

Librarian Mychal Threets shared what he called 'the power of the library' after a life-saving encounter with a patron.

Threets is the supervising librarian at the Solano County Library in the San Francisco Bay Area of California, and frequently shares his love for books, reading and libraries on his TikTok and Instagram channels. But a recent story he shared went far beyond a simple love for reading.

He explained how a recent encounter with an unhoused library patron turned into a lesson in how community spaces and simple human kindness can not only make all of our lives better, but maybe even save a life.

A homeless patron opened up to Threets that they were suicidal, and the library staff's kindness kept them alive.



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Threets was going about his daily duties at the library when he came across a person he said appeared to be unhoused. He greeted the person as he would any other patron, but likely due to the ways the unhoused population is routinely treated in most parts of the country, the person immediately became defensive. 

"They start grabbing their bag, saying, I'm leaving, I'm leaving, I'll go, okay," Threets said. He quickly clarified that he was just being friendly and saying hello. "I want you to be here in the library," he told the unhoused person. When he asked them if they were okay, they replied that "my brain hurts," which struck Threets as "an incredibly interesting way to say that you're struggling with your mental health."

librarian talking about the power of the libraryPhoto: @mychal3ts / TikTok

The person told Threets that they had been struggling with suicidal thoughts and "they didn't think anybody cared." But because Threets and his library staff were always kind and said hello, the person no longer felt like hurting themselves.

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Threets says the true 'power of the library' is the sense of belonging they can offer a community.

Threets called the encounter with the unhoused person "amazing," because it illustrates "the power of the library, of connection, of interrupting someone's day with a simple greeting, with saying hi."

After getting to know the unhoused person a bit more, they revealed that they had grown up coming to that very library every week as a child. "That is a grown-up library kid who needs help, who needed someone to tell them that they belong."

librarian talking about the power of the libraryPhoto: @mychal3ts / TikTok

There are myriad people who have similar, though maybe not quite as dire, connections to our hometown libraries. A 2015 Pew Research survey found that more than two-thirds of people feel that their local library closing would majorly impact their community. And 90% of Pew's subjects said they view libraries as "welcoming" community spaces. In a country that largely lacks so-called "third spaces," such as café culture, that form part of the fabric of both civic and individual life in other parts of the world, that's a vitally important thing.

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Despite their importance, libraries are underfunded and at the center of political attacks all over the country. 

Libraries in America are not only woefully underfunded, but many are also under all-out assault by conservative politicians and voters seeking to undermine or outright censor the contents of many public and school libraries, especially as pertains to LGBTQ+ content and books discussing racial issues.

And as conservatives' attempts at censorship, book bans, book burning and even bomb threats against libraries escalate, they have also turned their ire onto library workers, who are increasingly finding themselves subject to threats and in some cases violence by citizens accusing them of pushing agendas by not censoring libraries' contents. In many cases, these forces have combined to result in many libraries closing permanently.

Threets' work at the Solano County Library, not just as a librarian but as a citizen, shows how misguided this assault on community spaces really is.

"I'm so proud that my library people made them feel welcome, made them feel that they belong," he said of the unhoused person he encountered. "That's all that we're trying to do in this world together is exist.... Come to the library where you belong."

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John Sundholm is a news and entertainment writer who covers pop culture, social justice and human interest topics.