In November 2017, the Southeast Regional Library (of Maricopa County Library District, in Gilbert) hosted its fifth annual “LibraryCon” mini comic-con. The event was a huge success, bringing in many members of our local community united in their love of comics, anime, manga, and all things nerdy!
LibraryCon is a fun-filled event that is planned continuously all year long. Staff member Tara Carpenter originally created the LibraryCon program in 2013 after speaking with a colleague and customers about their shared love of Phoenix Comicon. Tara found that several other libraries around the country had already started their own “con” events. She received permission to try out a mini con and LibraryCon was born. Every year, a committee meets to plan this special event. The group picks a theme, marketing materials, schedules panels and tables, creates artwork, plans the layout, schedules food trucks, and takes care of all of the other million small details that go into creating such a large affair.
Over the last five years, this event has changed and grown with the staff and community that help put it together. The great feedback about the event, along with the ongoing large attendance numbers, show how much LibraryCon impacts the local Gilbert community.
The library has many staff members and volunteers working during LibraryCon. Managing the schedule for everyone can be overwhelming but, over time, we have refined a process for organizing presenters, volunteers, and staff. It was determined that everyone would have a variety of tasks during the program including taking attendance, assisting presenters with technical difficulties, greeting at the welcome table, counting the attendees, handing out brochures, drawing for prizes, judging the costume contest, roaming the library to assist customers, helping set up the food areas, and assisting with the cleanup of the library.
LibraryCon is a program with a small budget and a large impact! Our staff was able to give out small prizes and freebies and, amazingly, all of the presenters offered their services free! Most of the budget went to cover lanyards, craft supplies, prizes, and games. The budget was provided by the Friends of the Library group.
Through the years of hosting LibraryCon, staff members have marketed the program in various ways. We create library displays to generate interest leading up to the event. This year, there was an art contest and the winner had their art displayed at the event on a poster and bookmark. Also in 2017, we created three themed YouTube videos to promote the event. Staff also made a dedicated website with program details, found at mcldaz.org/librarycon, as well as a Facebook page, facebook.com/librarycon, that had frequent updates leading up to the event.
One recurring feature of LibraryCon is specialized panels based on various fandoms. Some of our panelists this year included local authors and illustrators. Another popular panelist discussed how to make cosplay costumes at home. Additionally, we hosted various cosplay groups including the Fireteam Phoenix, a Halo cosplay group that demonstrated how to create pieces of armor using a 3D printer.
LibraryCon has become such a success that it won a NACo, or National Association of Counties, award in 2016. Receiving national recognition for LibraryCon was a great honor for the committee and for the Southeast Regional Library. LibraryCon has continued to be a celebrated event each year, and with the help of the amazing staff and volunteers, its popularity will only continue into the future.
Jere Johnston is a Librarian at Southeast Regional Library
Tara Carpenter is Branch Manager at Ed Robson Library, and an AzLA member.