I’ve always thought that libraries and comics are a match made in heaven. So many comic book writers and artists flexed their earliest creative muscles in libraries, and so many young people (and grown-ups) enjoy both reading and making comics that it seems like a really natural fit. The Cincinnati Library Comic Con is today’s featured library program. This invigorating, lively series of workshops and events brings people together throughout the spring to make, read, and discover new comics, writers, and artists. ~ Laura
Special thanks to LeeAnn McNabb of the Public Library of Cincinnati for answering our questions about the Cincinnati Library Comic Con.
Please introduce yourself – who are you, where you work, and what your role is in the library?
My name is LeeAnn McNabb. At my day job, I am a Reference Librarian in the Popular Library Department at the Main Branch of the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County. The Library has forty branches and the Main Branch, which was recently named North America’s ‘Busiest Central Library’ by the PLA. Outside of work, I am a Trekkie, traveler, cat lover, and a zombie, comic book/graphic novel and gaming enthusiast. I talk about Star Trek, The Walking Dead, and my special needs cat, AgaThor the Super Kitten, whenever I get the chance. Just ask my friends and coworkers.
The Cincinnati Library Comic Con Series runs from March 1st – May 5th. It began with the Cincinnati Library Comic Con Drawing Contest, which runs until March 31st. The contest is for children (9-12), teens, and adults – each group being judged individually. Winners will be notified in late April and the awards ceremony will take place on May 5th.
In March and April, there will be a total of four workshops, which range in topic from drawing to writing to how to self publish comic books. The TeenSpot Department at the Main Branch will also be hosting a monthly Comic Book Club throughout the series.
The series ends with the Main Event, which takes place Sunday, May 5th. It will include free comic books, a comic book swap, the art contest awards ceremony, artist/writer/creator booths, a creator’s discussion panel, face painting, cosplay, and the opportunity for fans to get their pictures taken with comic book superheroes and sci-fi characters. We have a great lineup for the panel: David Michael Beck (Star Wars, JLA), Chris Charlton (Binary Grey), Tim Fuller (Hooha Comics, Zombie Marge web comic), Ken Henson (Splendid-Lite and Splendid-Darke), Mike Maydak (The Blackbeard Legacy), Tony Moore (The Walking Dead, Deadpool), Carol Tyler (You’ll Never Know), and Brian Williams (Lucius Hammer).
I originally proposed what would later become the Cincinnati Library Comic Con Series about a year ago after hearing about National Free Comic Book Day on Twitter. Free Comic Book Day (FCBD) is the first Saturday of every May. After visiting the organization’s website, I noticed that they had resources available for educators and libraries on their site, plus a list of local participating comic bookstores. I emailed the organization and asked if libraries were allowed to participate in the event and I heard back in the positive. I printed out a list of the local participating comic bookstores whose entries indicated that they would be interested in partnering with educators or librarians from FCBD’s website.
Interestingly, the very next day I was approached by a co-worker with a business card from a local comic bookstore that expressed an interest in working with the library on programming. Arcadian Comics & Games was on the list of potential contacts, so I pursued that avenue. I sent an email to the comic bookstore owner and before I knew it, we were well on our way to participating in Free Comic Book Day 2013. I decided early on in the process, even before I realized what the reaction would be and how large this event would get, to have our event on the Sunday immediately following FCBD, so that we weren’t taking away business from our local comic bookstore owners. That was very important to me. It would ensure that they would get maximum business at their stores on Saturday, while being able to promote our event on Sunday.
I originally only planned a panel event to incorporate into the Free Comic Book Day activities but the response was amazing. It became quite clear that there were many local artists, writers, and creators interested in participating in our events, more than we could fit on the panel. So, I allowed the CLCC to grow and expand in a natural and organic way to accommodate as many awesome events/participants as possible. Eventually, there came a time when my schedule was too full to add anything else. Thankfully, I already have many interested participants and ideas for 2014!
The CLCC is the perfect event for our library and our community because it is an event that can get everyone excited – all ages! It also engages artists and writers in the library community and introduces our resources to aspiring artists and writers. It really is a win/win for both the library and our special guests. They get exposure, can sell their merchandise, and we bring in a new audience.
There is no doubt in my mind that this event will bring people into the Main Library for the first time in their lives. Most importantly, we are taking note of the interests of our community and providing relevant and modern library programming and services to our community.
Can you speak a bit about the logistics of hosting a large-scale event like this in/through a library? Who are some of the partners you work with, and how did you identify these people? Who helps organize and execute the CLCC?
It’s challenging and requires a lot of time, but it is rewarding. I’ve had to drive around town delivering flyers and posters to comic bookstores, ask several businesses if they were willing to put up posters for the event, and come up with webpage/poster/flyer content for all of the workshops as well as the overall series. I’ve coordinated with our Marketing and Communications Department to make sure we were all on the same page. I’ve coordinated with our Acquisitions and Collection Development Departments to make sure that we get in the appropriate materials in time for the main event. I’ve reached out to other departments, Children’s Learning Center and TeenSpot, to make this a family friendly event. I’ve had to ask for volunteers from throughout the branches to assist on the day of the event. I’ve had to approach numerous local artists and arts organizations about participation. And, I’ve established a very good relationship with the comic bookstore that is partnering with us for these events. In other words, I’ve had to serve as an ambassador for not only the library, but for my department within the library system.
As I mentioned before, a local comic bookstore, Arcadian Comics and Games, approached us about partnering at the same time that I was brainstorming the event. So, I was quite lucky when it came to identifying a partner for this series. We have quite an active convention culture here in Cincinnati. There are two annual comic book conventions, one horror movie convention, and a gaming convention every year, to name just a few. So, there is a great culture of support for these types of events in Greater Cincinnati.
We’ve also partnered with the non-profit organization the Friends of the Public Library, which supports many of our library system’s programs with funds and volunteers. They’ve provided us with funds for some of the art contest prizes, volunteers for the day of the event, and will be setting up a booth with items to sell (mostly graphic novels and related materials). We’re very lucky to have such a supportive organization in our community.
I have received a lot of guidance and assistance from my coworker, Stephanie Cooper, and my manager, David Siders, in organizing this event. I am a new librarian, so they are helping guide me through the maze of policies and paperwork to make this event happen. I’ve also received a lot of help from our graphics department. Kathleen Ostoich has done all of the graphics orders for the CLCC and has done a fabulous job with our flyers and posters. Our Marketing and Communications department has taken care of promoting the series with the local media and on our Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr accounts. The TeenSpot department and the Children’s Learning Center has given me assistance in the form of age-appropriate comic books to be handed out on the main day as well as programming leading up to the main event. Several local organizations and businesses have willingly taken up the task of advertising the series on their social media sites and in their stores. And, of course, if it weren’t for the support of the special guests themselves, we wouldn’t have the workshops, the art contest judges, or their help in promoting the event.
What is the response to CLCC from the community?
So far the response has been amazing! We’re doing this on a pretty low budget and our local and regional creators, as well as our partner Arcadian Comics & Games, has offered us so much support. There have been so many people and organizations coming forward to participate or sponsor. So many, in fact, that we’re going to have to expand the series next year to get all of these great ideas in!
Are you in the Cincinnati area? Check out the CLCC page on the library’s website for series and event details.