On Tuesday, April 14 I and almost a full house got to hear Bethni King, Erik Knapp, Candace Neal, Tuan Nguyen, and Josh Wilson talk about graphic novels and how to get anime/manga programs and comic cons/clubs started at school and public libraries.
This session is publicized in the TLA program as follows:
Maverick Con: Stay in Front of the Graphic Novel Wave
3:00 – 3:50 pm
Put the POW in a powerful graphic novel program! Maverick Committee members cover tips for keeping your collection current and running a great graphic novel program. Establish and promote a manga/anime program or comic con club in your library.
I scribbled down my notes in my bullet journal, so while things are paraphrased, hopefully I can still do the session justice.
Tuan (Mackin Educational & Maverick Graphic Novel Committee): What is something that you learned about graphic novels and comics while being on the committee or something that you’d like to share to kick us off?
Candace (Carroll High School): I started with graphic novels slowly in my library, and it’s gradually taken over- before I’d have reference books all over, and now I’m clearing room everywhere for graphic novels. School libraries have a distinct advantage over public libraries in that we have a captive audience, and I’m a firm believer in that if you build the collection and the programs that they will come.
Bethni (Georgetown Public): One thing I had to learn is that graphic novels were more than superheroes and Maus. Now I have comics in all my displays, and recommend them all the time- if there’s a subject that I can put them in, I recommend them. We now have anime clubs, and anime/manga conventions at my library, and it’s been a huge success with the teens.
Erik (Plano Public): One thing that I love about graphic novels and comics is that they don’t tell just one type of story, they’re not just limited to one narrative or any typical story. No other medium does that the way that graphic novels do. We currently have anime/manga clubs at my library, and are working towards other things.
Tuan: How do you start a comic con/club at your library?
Bethni: HUGE planning. I work at LEAST 9 months out on mine. For our first one, we started with a dedicated group of teens, and the program lasted 4 hours, instead of the typical 2 hours. We had a cosplay contest, a voice actor present, teens did their own panels on collectibles and other topics, and we had theme-based food as well. The teens embraced the concept- that was the key.
Dallas and Houston are huge voice actor hubs, especially Dallas since it has Funimation. If you’re located around large metroplex areas, reach out and see if you can get someone to come, it can’t hurt.
Another key is to let the teens know who’s coming and WHAT they’ve done- you can say oh yea, X person is coming, but unless they know that X person is the voice of Y, it may not click. The first year of our program we had 75 teens, our 3rd year we had 200. We’re now aiming for our first full out Comic Con, and we’re a single library system.
Candace: I’m still in the planning stages for mine, but one of the most important things for me is having the support of the administration and getting 6-7 dedicated teens. Not the ones who need the credit on their college applications, but the ones that are banging down your door for the newest graphic novels that came in, or are giving you lists of things to order- those are the ones to get involved and listen to. Also, have what outcomes you want to get from the program- aside from cosplay, which is always what the teens want.
Erik: Take a look at what other local comic cons and anime cons have going on, it doesn’t have to be the big ones like Dallas. Keller has a good one, and there are other small ones that you can go see what’s going on, and pull ideas from.
Josh (Amarillo): I started an anime club that went from 5 teens to 100, and a steampunk club that had a steampunk ball that had over 400 attendees. I knew that with that amount of interest, we could get a good amount of attendance with a comic book convention, even in Amarillo.
Amicon in its first year aimed for 1000 attendees, and was pitched to the Board as making the library relevant for that demographic. We asked for $10,000 and were very specific in what we were asking for- we had a detailed plan in what we were going to do, where the money was going towards, and what the outcomes we wanted to be. We set a price of $5 so that the public would be convinced that it was value-based, and still we weren’t sure that we would break even- because for a first year con to break even in AMAZING.
Our first year we hit 1800. Our third year we hit over 3000, and we’re now confident we can say we’re the largest library con in the state, comparable to a lot of medium for-profit cons.
Tips I’d give is to make sure that you have the staff to cover anything that’s already planned- doing even a minicon can take over your life, and you have to make sure that everything that normally goes on (storytime, circulation, teen programs, etc.) carries on like normal. Additionally, make sure to reach out for anything you can think of- there are a lot of B list actors and voice actors within the area, especially within large metroplexes, and often if you’re working in a large area you’re only paying for their time.
Question and Answer Time
Question: When working in a school library, how often to you worry about the public library “stealing” your kids for your programs?
Candace: NEVER! You can’t steal the kids- you’re sharing them, and they’re addicts, they’re NEVER going to get enough.
Erik: You’re providing an outlet for them and supporting the teens at the same time, giving them adults in their lives that share their passion. That’s never a bad thing.
Candace: In all the schools I’ve worked in, I’ve always had a good relationship with the public librarians- I don’t know how you can’t.
Question: How much lead time do you need for your programs?
Bethni: At least 9 months. You know how everyone says you need a year to start planning a good summer reading programming, it’s really like that. After you do the first, you start the list of what you can do better for the next one.
Question: What homework have you done to understand graphic novels and comics if you didn’t know about the genre to start?
Definitely start with the Mavericks list, and talk to the teens that you trust. The ones that are bringing you the lists of things that you’re missing, the ones that you have a good relationship with. Constantly read and go from there, and immerse yourself in the genre so you can get a handle on it.
Question: How do you get guests for your programs?
Funimation, publishers, ask about Skype visits, ask actors via their social media.
Question: What are the hardest things you’ve had to overcome about doing a school/public library partnership program?
Haven’t done one yet, but I would imaging combining the two different bureaucracies, and getting all the permissions and staff together, as well as the two different legalities.
Question: Do you work with local comic book shops and participate in Free Comic Book Day?
Question: How concerned are you about theft and graphic novels/comics?
Really, they’re harder than DVDs to steal, and at times they get mysteriously returned without being checked out, so TA DA! In house use! Really, they are a really high percentage of circulation (3.5% for Plano), and the big problem is more replacing issues that are falling apart more than issues that are stolen. Or keeping up with demand.
Question: What resources do you recommend to use for building an elementary level?
New Little Maverick list (starting next year), which is the first state library association list for pre-K through 5th grades
Remember that there is the Friday session with Jeff Smith at 9 a.m., and you can always contact the Maverick Graphic Novel committee with questions.