Librarians love a conference – there’s nothing quite like getting together with a hall full of your like-minded peers to discuss library life. However, dedicated librarian conferences like ALA Annual and Midwinter are not the only places to network and learn from your peers. I recently attended C2E2 in Chicago this past week, a three-day comic convention where comic professionals, artists, cosplayers, and librarians all gather to celebrate comics, pop culture, and the people who love them.
Although I had already planned on attending in my regular capacity as nerd girl extraordinaire, imagine my delight when the panel schedule posted and there were library events! Friday was the dedicated day for librarian professional events at the con, and attendance at the three panels and networking session was filled with librarians from the Chicago area (and ones farther afield in the Midwest, like me).
I was able to attend two out of the three librarian panels, plus the ALA-sponsored networking session. The very first panel of the day was Comics Collection Quandaries in Libraries, which featured librarians from different sections of the field (including the hosts of the Secret Stacks podcast) discussing the unique problems posed by comic books. Comics occupy a strange space between adult, children, and teen reading, present specific cataloging problems, and can be difficult to order due to their often inconsistent serialization. This serialization also poses a larger problem — how to organize them! The panel’s discussion as to whether to sort by company, author, character, fiction/non-fiction, or age range was fascinating, and provided an insight into how libraries are tackling the growing demand for comics among their patrons.
The second session I was able to attend covered the Chicago Public Library’s efforts to attract the young geek population to its libraries, especially youth from underserved areas. They are using human-centered design thinking to understand the needs of local geeks and increase first-time visitors to the library. The creation of a miniature convention – PocketCon – for local minority youth has been particularly successful. The key takeaway from that session was that librarians have to make the library a natural part of the conversation. Pushing people to visit the library will drive them away, while integrating it as a natural part of the community attracts millennials far more than a sales pitch could.
The capstone to the day was the Librarian Networking Event, hosted by the American Librarian Association (ALA), which also held a booth at the convention (across from the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund (CBLDF) – great placement!). The first networking session of its kind at C2E2, the session brought together librarians, LIS students, and comic book publishers like Valiant for a meet-up to discuss their professional aspirations and goals, as well as get some great comic recommendations. Hosted by Tina Coleman, Membership Specialist at ALA and owner of a seriously awesome Gotham Library shirt, it was a great opportunity to meet other librarians and talk about what we all loved – comics! Valiant, the publisher present at the event, was very receptive to librarian comments about its works, especially in areas of concern like binding. Although there were some difficulties – the room was structured with rows of tables that made moving around difficult – it was a good first attempt and a lot of fun. I was able to stop by the ALA booth on Saturday in my Agent Carter guise and pick up a special librarian flag to go on my badge, which made up for not having purchased a cheaper professional pass as most of my peers had.
I would highly recommend looking at comic conventions for future professional development opportunities. The crossover between librarians and geeks is high, and it’s a good chance to talk to publishers face-to-face about concerns and problems. Comics are an increasingly popular part of library collections, and going straight to the source allows librarians and LIS students to connect with their patron base as a natural part of the comics world.
Grace Butkowski has worked in all types of libraries since she was in high school. It took six tries to get that first job, but it was worth it! After studying history for her bachelor’s degree, she currently resides in St. Paul, MN, and works for the administrative office of the University of Minnesota Libraries. As an online student with Kent State, Grace is interested in museums, archives, and has a newfound interest in digital librarianship. Outside of professional pursuits, she’s a seamstress, knitter, and reader. You can reach out to Grace through her LinkedIn or her Twitter, @gkbutkowski1.