If “Toy Story” happened in real life, it may have looked something like this.
Last week, the Somerville Public Library hosted what it called a “stuffed animal sleepover” for local kids’ favorite toys, an event that recently gained increased attention online amid a national debate about the role of public libraries and their importance in the community.
On July 17, children were invited to drop off their plush pals at two of the library’s branches for the night. When the children and their parents left, librarians spent the evening setting up the stuffed animals in different scenarios as if they were alive.
The staff then took photos of the toys causing mischief, brushing their teeth, playing at a local park, watching “Frozen,” and eating Chinese food and pizza. The library posted the pictures on Facebook so that the children could follow along and “see what your pal is up to,” as they took on a life of their own.
At first, the pictures appeared quietly online, and were enjoyed by the parents and children.
But when local writer Juliet Kahn on Monday tweeted about the Somerville Public Library’s sleepover party, the event started to gain some buzz.
“I’m glad we’re talking about libraries,” Kahn wrote, a reference to an article posted to the website of Forbes last week that called for closing libraries in favor of Amazon stores, leading to a strong backlash.
She added, “Because my library had a stuffed animal sleepover for the local kids recently, where they left their buddies there and the librarians took a bunch of pictures of their sleepover shenanigans, and I’ve been losing my (expletive) over [it] for a week.”
Kahn’s tweet, which used the sleepover as an example of why libraries are so necessary, was shared more than 5,000 times as of Wednesday, as people started circulating pictures from the event.
“Dear lord. I’m dying,” one person wrote on Twitter. “IT’S SO CUTE.”
The Forbes article that seemed to inspire her tweet was an opinion piece penned by Panos Mourdoukoutas, chairman of the economics department at LIU Post.
Titled, “Amazon Should Replace Local Libraries to Save Taxpayers Money,” it set off a firestorm of complaints from librarians and book-lovers across the country, who came out in full-force to defend their beloved local institutions.
By Monday, as criticism continued to mount, the article was stripped from Forbes’ website, according to Quartz.
A spokesperson told Quartz in a statement that “Forbes advocates spirited dialogue on a range of topics,” but, the company added, “This article was outside of this contributor’s specific area of expertise, and has since been removed.”
Cathy Piantigini, deputy director of libraries in Somerville, said they saw an outpouring of support as the Forbes article went viral last week — and even more-so in the wake of Kahn’s tweet.
She said the timing of Kahn’s tweet was “kind of great,” because it reinforced the notion that people love their local libraries.
“It’s just so great that when you have someone posting an ill-informed piece about how a Starbucks and Amazon can save the day, that you have this outcry not just from librarians, but also from patrons and community leaders and people who see the value of them,” she said. “It was surprise [that this event got so much attention], but it was so heartwarming.”
Piantigini said the library’s East branch is planning a sleepover soon.
Steve Annear can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @steveannear.