A 33-year-old librarian in Solano County has gained TikTok and Instagram notoriety for his cheerful videos about "library kids," the pleasures of books, and "library joy."

"Books were my very first friend," says Mychal Threets, who has been garnering more media attention in recent months for filling a social media niche that doesn't often get filled, that of the small-town librarian. Threets is the supervising librarian at the Fairfield Civic Center Library in Fairfield, and he's been posting videos about his library experiences since early in the pandemic — transitioning from Facebook to TikTok and Instagram.

As he tells the New York Times this week, his first video to go viral was in March 2023, and a number of his earnest, library-affirming stories have gained traction since then.

"Most of the time I’m either just retelling library interactions, library stories,” Threets tells the Times of his videos. "And then, apart from that, I just try to give people messages of hope."

Threets, who grew up going to the Fairfield Civic Center Library as a home-schooled kid in the local area, getting his first library card when he was five years old, has an ebullient, very child-friendly persona. His followers have, rightly, made comparisons to Fred Rodgers and to LeVar Burton in his "Reading Rainbow" days. And his notoriety has already helped win him national recognition from the American Library Association, which named him one of 10 recipients in 2023 of the I Love My Librarian Award.

Threets also regularly posts about mental health, and the role that libraries can play in people's lives who suffer from anxiety and depression, as he does.

"I think of just libraries in general being a safe space for me from a very early age," Threets told KQED in an interview last fall.

And as he said in a recent video, "The library is here to help you. Never be afraid to ask for help."

Threets has been trying, in his small way, to promote the idea that libraries are more than just book repositories, more than just places for quiet, but can be touchstones — especially for kids — and places that give kids broad freedom to explore which they don't tend to have in the larger world.

"I do believe that every school librarian, public librarian, academic librarian, all the library workers, they’re all agents of change, working to make the world a better place," Threets said in his KQED interview. "Be it banned books, celebrating just the freedom to freedom to read. Just saying that we’re not trying to make it any, any big thing. We’re not trying to push anything on you, on your kids. We just want them to be able to see themselves, to feel seen, to feel represented, to feel that they belong. The library is happy. We’re waiting for you. We can’t wait to see you."