Once upon a time (last year), my super geeky boss Sarah and I decided to host a Comic Con. We thought that the summer of 2015 would be perfect because the theme was all things Superhero. We half joked in the break room about how cool it would be to have a con that took up all of the rooms in the library and brought together the geeks of Springfield. About halfway into our discussion we realized that we just might be able to pull this off. Seriously, she is a really cool boss! And thus.. in the wee afternoon hours of fall planning long ago, a super event to eclipse all events was born. It was named LibraryCon! This is our journey..
Planning big and facing the realities of staffing, space, and budgets:
Our branch loves to create big programs and we often have events with 100+ attendees. While we wanted the Con to be huge, we had to be realistic with our ideas. The Con would happen during our Summer Reading program which could be both good and bad. Good: Because it fit with the Superhero theme. Bad: Because of staffing and the potential to draw anywhere from 100-1000 people. We had just learned a valuable lesson in staffing after a Pete the Cat program unexpectedly drew in around 600 people.
We decided to put a call out for volunteers several months in advance and send out reminders the closer we got to the big day. We needed room monitors, greeters, book sale attendees, and floaters that would help with breaks. Our goal was to have a good support system for each other, our attendees, and our special guests.
Next came the space. Our fabulous branch manager helped us choose a date and reserve all of the rooms in the library that we could possibly need. Our large auditorium would be used for our geeky panels and screenings. Two of our meeting rooms (with a movable wall) would house the illustrators and authors. The large hallway would be filled with the rest of our geeky guests. The Storytime Room would host the fandom storytime and geeky crafts for kids. Finally, we had a “greenroom” for guests that needed to change into costume that also doubled as our lunchroom.
We mapped out our space and created spreadsheets with guest info, table requests, and locations. This way we would have everything ready to go when people arrived to set up. Then we left the list at the front door with our greeters so they could direct traffic and answer any questions about location and space.
Finally, the budget… July is the end of our fiscal year so we knew that we had to work with basically nothing. From the very start we planned on only spending money on snacks, and mileage for on our our out of town guests. Everything else would have to be donated or used from our regular supplies. Sarah and I wanted to try and feed our panelists since they were doing the most work and also provide snacks and bottled water for our other special guests. The Community Relations department was able to score us some delicious burritos from Chipotle for free. My husband and I donated water and cookies. We have a cafe at our branch so guests also had that as an option.
To sum up our spending.. we did this pretty much on a Ramen Noodle Budget!
Finding the Geeks and spreading some nerdy love:
The best part of planning LibraryCon was the realization that we all know some really geeky people. Several of us met of the course of a few months to talk about who we knew in the community. Our goal was to stay within the Southwest Missouri area and focus on local talent. Yeah, we could have blown our tiny budget on one mega geek, but why do that when there is already such a cool group of geeks in the Springfield area?
Sarah and I made a list of everyone we personally knew that might be interested and then sent out an email to all the library staff to see who they knew. I also decided to scout out one of our local cons (VisionCon) to see if I could find some more illustrators, local authors, and cosplay groups. My husband and I met some great geeks that were really excited to join us for LibraryCon. We also talked up our future event at Free Comic book day at the Comic Cave. I was able to find some really cool illustrators to be on one of our panels and have tables at the event. I also met a local Podcast group called Fanatics and the Fan who wanted to come and do live cast at our event!
Between our scouting adventures, emails to staff, and word getting around, we were able to come up with a great list of local geeks to attend our event and all for free! With this list we decided to have several panels and screenings over the two day event. The first night would feature a local group who has an award winning webseries called: Drifter. The second day we set up three panels: How to Cosplay, Meet the Illustrators, and meet the Authors. As our final event we would screen “Midwest in Panels” a documentary about Comic books stores in the Midwest.
The rest of the list consisted of groups in the community that specialize in all things nerd. They were set up in the main hall of the library to show off their geeky talents and offerings to the community. We had a wide range of tables from Cosplay groups, Gaming and Larping groups, to other fan conventions spreading the word about their upcoming events. There was something for everyone to enjoy.
All of our flyers and web publicity was done in house by our Community Relations group. Once the flyers got out word spread really quick! We had several of our guests create Facebook event pages for us, pass out flyers, and event do webcasts. It was awesome!
The waiting game. AKA- Anxiety and sleepless nights full of Christmas Eve like excitement:
As we waited for the big day we made sure to keep in contact with our guests, double check our to-do lists, and try to hold in the excitement. You know things are going to be awesome when your husband tells you that it’s like waiting for Christmas. I honestly tossed and turned the night before because I was so excited. This was the biggest thing I have ever been a part of in my library career and I could not wait for the big day.
Stay tuned for LibraryCon Part 2
Also, check out GreenBeanTeenQueen for her take on our event.