La Vista Public Library, NE
MLIS candidate, San José State University, CA (expected December 2013); BA, English, University of Illinois at Springfield, 2010
TEEN ADVISORY BOARD YOUTUBE
Photo by Mitch Beaumont
Asked to describe some characteristics of teen librarian Lindsey Tomsu, the members of the teen advisory board (TAB) at La Vista Public Library, who nominated her, use words like caring, fantabulous, awesomesauce, brilliant, and nerdy. She enables young adults’ voices to be heard, with programs inspired by her teenage patrons. “I ask them for ideas, and I don’t laugh at them or tell them that their ideas won’t work,” Tomsu says.
When Tomsu started in 2009 at the library, which serves a bedroom community of Omaha, only a handful of teens showed up. Determined to attract more, Tomsu appealed to their sense of fun and turned the 2010 reading logs into a Blackout Bingo game. Soon she formed a TAB and with its help added twice-weekly programs. Among the more unusual offerings is Arkham Horror Gaming Club, where kids could play the cooperative, adventure board game based around H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu stories. Tomsu got an $800 Nebraska Library Youth Excellence grant to expand the number of teens who could play. Then, when the teens decided to turn Arkham Horror into a life-sized game in 2012, she pursued a $1,000 YALSA/Dollar General Teen Read Week grant to fund a weeklong celebration with Lovecraftian activities. The teens spent three months creating sets and costumes for the event.
Tomsu’s commitment has produced results. Annual program attendance soared from 115 in 2009 to 796 in 2012. Summer reading participation rose from 79 to 1,433 for the same period, Tomsu says; attendance at the junior and senior high school is 2,333 combined (the library draws from some other schools, too). Teen feedback prompted the library to shift all nonfiction shelving to subject classification rather than Dewey, increasing teen nonfiction circulation.
In January 2013, Tomsu’s TAB started a two-year term as a YALSA YA Galley Group. Tomsu also received another Youth Excellence grant that covers almost all of the $2,000 needed to launch a Teen Media Club for the teens to create their own digital content.
Tomsu’s love of learning—and teens—is contagious, says Judy Andrews, assistant director and youth services librarian at Kilgore Memorial Library in York, NE. “She sees the potential in young adults and is able to articulate [how much she cares] for them,” Andrews says.