Did I forget to mention that I had a library stand at our local Comic Con?
A comic store in a nearby town runs this comic con and when I gave them a call, they gladly let me have a table in the artists’ section for free. “We’ve never had a library ask us before,” they said. Well, sirs, that’s because I wasn’t a librarian before this year.
Comic people are my people. I don’t know nearly enough about them to pass for a pro, but I know enough about geekery in general to have easy conversation with them all. They may tease you for liking Marvel more than DC or they may agree with your loathing for Wolverine, but whatever their feelings, they just like to share them. When you see someone cosplaying, it’s because this is one of the few things they love enough to want to talk about, in public, all day long. Every one of them has opinions and at a con, their passions unite them overall, even when they dispute the small stuff. Cons are a great place to be geeky for anything, and that’s why they’re such a great environment for outreach. If you can ask people there about what they love, you’ll easily find ways to open up and steer the conversation toward what the library can do to help.
However, even knowing all this, I’ve never had another opportunity to go to a comic con, even off the job. Also, the weeks leading up to the con were extremely busy for me, so I didn’t feel like I had adequate time to put together convincing props. Here’s what I was able to plan:
- I made sure I had a comic character t-shirt and chose one of my favorite characters, Dark Phoenix.
- I had tablecloths to choose from in thematic comic colors: black, red, and yellow.
- I asked everyone in our system for a volunteer to go with me. I got one.
- I planned a free craft similar to my Harry Potter wands but called them Sonic Screwdrivers this time. (Pictures below.)
- I made a science fair-type board that explained some library services we offer.
- I brought program brochures and bookmarks.
- I also brought comic books to display and catch eyes.
- I planned a very quick storytime with a Star Wars theme and laminated clipart from this pack.
- I packed up my flannelboard, a table (just in case they’d really only reserved the space…not a real table), chairs, and everything above and stuffed it all into the back of my Jeep.
- I asked my husband to come by and help me unload and re-load everything since it was a lot to carry for two young women.
I arrived an hour before opening time to get everything set up and to meet some of the vendors. The artists and vendors were surprised to learn that the library wanted to be there, but they were very supportive and some of them helped point people toward us since we were offering a free activity. As I was walking around, I noticed that we were the only stand with a free activity.
Right from the beginning, my teammate and I targeted young people and families. We drew them in by offering a free craft and lots of people, even adults, took us up on it.
As time went on, we found that the real way to get people going was to talk with them about their costumes and ask to take pictures with them. While we were talking, they’d often pick up a program schedule or bookmark and ask us about how to get a library card.
Around 11, I scooped us kids and did a really fast storytime. Somehow, the kids were feeling extremely quiet and just watched as I sang Zoom, Zoom, Zoom and did Jbrary’s version of Superhero, Superhero. Then I pulled out my clipart and told a short and sweet version of the original Star Wars trilogy. This delighted parents as they kept whispering asides to their kids, describing their favorite parts. The kids loved naming the characters as I revealed them.
We left a few hours before it shut down because we didn’t have anyone to trade off shifts with us. Five hours was pretty exhausting for me and I was starting to lose my voice from needing to speak so loudly. (The crowd in the room just made for a lot of background noise.)
I learned so much and came back to my director with better ideas for next year. Here are some things I’d like to do differently:
- Ask the organizers if we could set-up right outside the room so that we can get people as they come in or stand in line to enter.
- Instead of a craft, offer a bingo card or scavenger hunt that families/individuals can take around to different vendors for stamping and return for a prize.
- Set up props next to our table that can be used as a photo op.
- 86 the text on the bulletin board and just go with photos of programs.
- Create an attractive, large banner that tells people right away who we are.
Have any of you done a comic con? What was your experience?