Published on November 24th, 2015 | by Lisa O'Shaughnessy

How to Host a Cosplay Runway Program


Question 1: Who here loves to dress up in costume and act out their favorite character?

I know I do, and our patrons do too!  Cosplay is simply defined as: The practice of dressing up as a character from a movie, book, or video game, especially one from the Japanese genres of manga and anime. (Oxford Dictionaries)  It is a great way to connect with patrons and celebrate their interests in a fun exciting way all while promoting fan, geek culture and even literacy at your very own library.  What could be better?

Question 2: How can you celebrate the spirit of cosplay, geek and fan culture, and literacy all at the same time in your library?

For me, as a librarian who loves programming and creating new and exciting experiences for children and teens, the answer to this question is always; let’s have a program about it!   The program I would like to share today is called Cosplay Runway.   A fun and exciting cosplay program for your library that can be adapted for children, teens and even adults. 530

Cosplay Runway: Cosplay Runway is a team based cosplay competition based off the combination of a reality TV show reveal challenge (project runway, face off, heroes of cosplay), a traditional cosplay costume contest (any cosplay or costume contest you’ve ever seen) and paper cosplay contest (Valhalla Con).

Participants first divide themselves into groups of 3 – 5.  Once the groups are established, they are then presented with a mystery box of supplies (including colored paper, old clothes, fabric scraps, markers, ribbon, safety pins, duct – tape, etc).  Then comes the fun part, the judges present each team with their challenge:

  1. Create an original character.
  2. Design and construct your character’s costume using the materials provided.
  3. Work with your team members to create your character’s backstory.
  4. One member of your team must model/cosplay your character for the judges while the rest of the team presents the character’s backstory.

504_1Each team is given 45 minutes to complete the challenge along with periodic time updates from the judges.   When the 45 minutes is completed, time is called and teams are asked to step away from their tables.  Five minutes is given for final costume fixes and team story prep.

Judges: Get everyone involved!

Depending on when you are having your program, whether it be stand alone or as part of a larger event, choosing judges can be a fun way to get community members, special guests or staff members involved.   If the program is part of a larger event like a Library Con you can ask some of your special guests to be celebrity judges for the program.   Usually, they will be more than happy to participate.   If you are hosting the program as a stand-alone event try reaching out to your local arts council or community organizations to see if anyone would like to participate and help judge the competition.  You would be surprised who likes to cosplay or likes supporting children’s/teens 509_1programs in your community.  This program can be a great way to build community partnerships while showing the participants of the program that the whole community supports their interest.   If you can’t find outside judges, ask your colleagues.  Chances are someone on staff secretly loves to cosplay (super bonus), loves some sort of fandom, video game or geek culture in general; or knows nothing about any of this in which case it’s a great opportunity to educate and get them involved in a fun and supportive way.   Just as in the case of having judges from the community, when program participants see library staff they interact with on a regular basis supporting their interests it lets them know the library is a safe supportive space where they can explore and celebrate their interests.

Judging the Completion:

Judges ask all the teams to come up on stage to present their characters to the audience.   One by one each team presents their character.

  1. The chosen team member models/cosplays the character.
    2. The team then explains who the character is and tells the judges a bit about the character’s backstory.
    3. Judges ask any questions about costume construction or the character themselves.

514_1After each team presents their character, judges send everyone back to their tables during deliberation.  Points are given for costume creation, character presentation, and complete character backstory.  After deliberation each team is called back up on stage for final presentation to the audience and prizes are presented for the wining team.

Final Thoughts: As seen in the pictures above, I have run Cosplay Runway as part of our library’s annual Anime, Scifi, and Comic Convention ToSho –Con (East Orange Public Library ToSho-Con Facebook) and as a stand-alone program during summer reading.  Each program was extremely well attended and participants had such a great time creating their own characters, character costumes and coming up with their character’s backstory.  For me, this511_1 program celebrates several topics that I love cosplay, imagination, group collaboration and sharing of ideas, maker culture through costume creation, and literacy through creating a character backstory.   Creating a program where I can celebrate and share these interests with my patrons, creating a fun and supportive environment in the library, is as the commercials say Priceless!


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