Published on October 26th, 2015 | by Heela Naqshband
Library Mini Con Dos and Don’ts
The Henderson Libraries Mini Con made its successful inaugural debut in July 2015. Since our libraries’ summer reading challenge theme was superheroes, we thought a mini comic con would be the perfect way to incorporate geek culture into our programming and create a fun family-friendly event. A group of two librarians and two specialists from two different branches designed and coordinated the program in just five months.
We wanted to offer some of the same features as larger comic cons, but obviously, on a smaller scale. Our biggest draw was the Artist Alley which showcased 25 local artists and businesses selling their handmade art, jewelry, crafts, comics, and more. We also had a workshop on how to create your own comic book, and a panel featuring local business owners and artists discussing how to become “professional” geeks and get paid to do what you love. For the little ones, we had a craft station where they could make their own superhero masks, as well as a photo station with fun props and an Instagram-like frame with our hashtag. And what’s a comic con without cosplay? We held a contest and awarded prizes for the best kid, teen, and adult costumes.
The mini con took place on a Saturday, one of our busier days, and by the middle of it, there were over 500 people in the library! It was a jam-packed four hours (not including set-up and take-down). Needless to say, we were physically and mentally exhausted afterward, but all of the positive feedback we received from visitors and participants made it worthwhile. Before we could even take a moment to breathe, people were asking about the next one!
While we plan for a future event, we wanted to offer some do’s and don’ts for hosting your own mini con at the library:
Library Con Dos
DO check to see there are no competing cons happening at the same time. We made sure our date did not coincide with any other similar events in the area, especially SDCC.
DO decide if you want to charge a fee to artists/vendors for renting tables. In our case, exhibitors made a small donation (either $10 or $25) to our Friends of the Library group. Try to use PayPal to collect payment, because many artists already use it, and it’s just faster and easier for all involved.
DO go out into the community to find artists. While some of the participants were personal contacts, we also went scouting. I dropped by the LVL UP EXPO, a local video game/anime/tech/comic convention a few months prior to our event and introduced myself to several artists, a few of which ended up getting tables at our con. A couple others visited comic book shops and video games stores to meet the owners and get in touch with artists. As a result, we got tons of prizes donated for the winners of our cosplay contest.
DO get in touch with local cosplay groups. They are great at spreading the word and always have fun costumes.
DO ask participants (artists, vendors, panelists) to spread the word on their social media platforms. We got a lot of visitors this way.
DO get help from volunteers, especially for set-up and take-down. We asked our teen librarian if we could borrow some of her volunteers to move tables and chairs, and it helped us tremendously.
DO send out an online survey to participants asking for their feedback on the event as a way to learn what you did well and how you could improve for the future. If they’ve been to other cons before, they can provide great insight and advice.
Library Con Don’ts
DON’T be afraid to decline certain vendors. We realized after the fact that one of our vendors did not have a brick-and-mortar store, but was selling from his own personal collection of old comics. We plan on being a little stricter with our guidelines next year.
DON’T worry if you run out of giveaways. We had ordered 200 tote bags with our mini con logo, and they were gone fast. This is a good thing. We don’t want to hold on to old swag, plus that means 200 people are currently carrying a bag with our logo on it!
DON’T forget to take lots of photos. We were so busy running around that we only took a handful of pictures. Assign photo duties to another trusted colleague.
DON’T get discouraged if you don’t hear back from people right away. Our deadline for exhibitors was coming up and we were nervous because we didn’t have many people signed up. A few days later, we were flooded with registrants and had to start turning people away.
And remember: With great power comes great responsibility. The real crime would be not to finish what we started. May the force be with you. You’re much stronger than you think. Trust me.