Teen Services Representative
Kansas City Public Library, MO
BA, University of Missouri–Kansas City, 2012
Photo ©2014 Michael Pilla
Hearing Voices, Speaking Out
“If you had told me at 18 that I would want to be a librarian, I would have said you were crazy,” says Wick Thomas. He already knew, however, that he’d be an LGBT advocate, because he’d begun as a teenager, holding his first protest in rural Missouri at age 16 against a state amendment defining marriage as between one man and one woman. Thomas founded his high school’s chapter of the Gay Straight Alliance, was president of the University of Missouri–Kansas City Queer Alliance, and is now president of Empowering Queer Activists and Leaders (EQUAL), which provides activist and leadership training.
For this work, Thomas won a Creating Change award from the National Gay and Lesbian Taskforce and was named Best Activist in Missouri twice by the KC alternative newspaper Pitch Weekly.
But it wasn’t until Thomas took a job in 2006 as a page at the Linda Hall Library, an independent research library, that he could imagine a career as an advocate in the stacks. “It clicked for me that the library world was in need of that,” he says. “Young people [often] feel that no one [is] listening.”
Since 2008, Thomas has been a fervent advocate of young voices and lives as a teen services representative at the Kansas City Public Library, where he handles teen services for two branches, including weekly teen gaming events and other programs, and does outreach to local high schools—and much more. Exhibit A is Unheard Voices, a teen literary and art zine he helped young library users launch, edit, and print in summer 2013. The first edition featured the work of about 30 teenagers. Hundreds of copies were distributed to city schools and libraries.
“The zine has been an amazing success,” he says. “We are planning on implementing it yearly and increasing the number we are publishing. The next edition will be much larger.”
Thomas, who is also the lead singer of the queercore band Wick and the Tricks, says, “I have been really lucky at the Kansas City Public Library to find such amazing mentors and supervisors willing to take a chance on a punk like me.” The library world is lucky to have him, too.