Published on October 8th, 2015 | by Kathleen Gruver

10 No-to-Low Cost Ideas for Your Library’s Con

So you want to host a comic con at your library but don’t have any funding? Or you’ve been lucky enough to secure funding but still need some low or no-cost programs to fill out your comic con schedule. Fortunately, there are options for the budget conscious con organizer.

Cosplay Dating Game – I originally heard about this one from librarians at the Cherry Hill Public Library, who in turn heard about it in “Host Your Own Anime Convention,” an article in the October 2011 VOYA. This is a cosplay version of the old Dating Game television show. Contestants fill out a brief form ahead of time giving information about their cosplay character. From this pool of contestants, the game organizers select a bachelor and three bachelorettes for each round. The three bachelorettes are seated behind a screen or partition which hides them from the bachelor, who asks them a series of questions. All players, bachelor and bachelorettes, must stay in cosplay character. At the end of the question and answer period, the bachelor gets one minute to decide which bachelorette he would prefer; you can play Dating Game music to heighten the suspense during this time, since it is available on YouTube. You may even end up with a match that was meant to be, like the Joker selecting an anime character who killed her own sister, as happened at my library’s cosplay dating game.

Life Sized Chess – If you have a chess group which meets at your library, the members could stage a Life Sized Chess game, or, if you want to put a Harry Potter spin on it, Wizard Chess. Use construction paper or duct tape to mark chessboard squares on the floor. Volunteers who are serving as chess pieces wear paper hats or signs taped to their shirts indicating which piece they are. Play is controlled by two experienced chess players, who tell the human chess pieces how to move. If you are doing the Wizard Chess variant, you obviously aren’t going to let the chess pieces attack each other, but they can use silly string or Nerf guns.

Photobooth – People who have put a lot of time and work into their outfits love to have pictures of their cosplay. Set up a photobooth area where you can take pictures with a digital camera or with the iPad’s PhotoBooth app. You can provide backdrops, such as a city skyline or blue sky with clouds, or insert backgrounds digitally with a photo program, depending on what you have available. Make photos available to your con attendees via social media. This will also provide you with great visual material when you want to talk up your con to people who are not necessarily familiar with cosplay or comic cons, or if you simply want to publicize your con. Just familiarize yourself with your library’s policy on photographs or videos in case there are questions.

Tabletop Gaming – If you already have a program like this at your library, great! Recruit the players to run tabletop gaming at your con. If not, ask around. There are probably D&D and Magic players in the community who would be happy to participate.

Cosplay Costume Workshop – If you are fortunate enough to find talented cosplayers or costume makers on staff or in the community, let them run a costuming workshop where they can show off costumes they have made and explain how they made them. Costumes don’t necessarily have to be cosplay specific since many ideas can be adapted; a medieval princess costume, for example, can be changed to become a costume for a character from Game of Thrones. Cosplay costuming can also involve many different techniques, such as making chain mail, and sculpting armor or masks, so it isn’t just about sewing. Check with your local historical reenactment group, Renaissance Fair or SCA (Society for Creative Anachronism) to see if they know costumers who would be willing to present.

Trivia Contests – These are always a staple for no to low cost programming. Thanks to Internet sites like Sporcle, they are easy to put together, and can even include video clips. Prizes are optional but always welcome.

Name That Theme Song – Create a playlist of superhero and fandom theme songs on YouTube, like this one. Play on an iPad or laptop with speakers, or plugged into your sound system. People have to guess the theme song and volunteers throw wrapped candy or prizes to those answering correctly. You can vary this by making audience members sing along with the more obvious songs, or by making them dance the Batusi to the 1966 Batman theme, for example.

Friends Book Sale – If your library or Friends group has book sales of donated or weeded books, have them do a special book sale at the con with donated graphic novels, science fiction and fantasy novels.

Cosplay Parade – If you have attendees who are cosplaying, be sure to have a formal cosplay parade with accompanying music. It is a good idea to register parade participants ahead of time so you can line up the commentary and the music. Make sure your cosplay parade participants take their time with their presentation and don’t just dart across the stage – everyone wants to appreciate those fabulous cosplays! Judging and prizes are optional.

Outside Groups – Not every fandom related group asks for an appearance fee. I did some Googling and was able to find a local quidditch team which was happy to do a demo game at our con in return for a recruiting table and the opportunity to publicize their team. Many libraries want the 501st Legion to appear at their cons; if you wish to do this, you need to contact them well ahead of your con date. There are numerous fandom groups with an online presence, including Starfleet, the world’s largest Star Trek fan club with many local chapters, and US Quidditch, and it is worth reaching out to them to see if they would like to attend your con. Check with local high schools to see if they have anime clubs which would like to participate. Many of these organizations are eager to publicize their activities and to recruit new members and your library’s con offers a wonderful opportunity for just that.

These are only a few ideas. A lot will depend on your community and what is popular locally. However, your best resource is the inhouse talent already at your library. Are any of your staff members into certain fandoms? That Batman fan who works at the circulation desk is the perfect choice to run a Dark Knight trivia contest. Are there any talented seamstresses or costume makers on staff? What about gamers?   You may be surprised by the variety of interests and talents you find among your staff and volunteers, once you start asking around. Good luck in planning your library’s comic con!


About the Author

Kathleen Gruver was in academe for years before she realized she was destined to be a librarian and hasn't looked back since. She is a YA librarian at a NJ library and is active in her state library association's YA services section, including a stint as section president. She is also a longtime reviewer for School Library Journal. When not organizing library fandom events, she is a sewer, a knitter, a horsewoman, and a dog agility trainer and competitor. She is a big fan of Wonder Woman and Axe Cop, and has frequent spirited discussions with her sons as to who was a better Joker, Jack Nicholson or Heath Ledger.

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