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Free Comic Book Day Panel OR How Christie Needs Practice With Microphones

In case you missed it on the blog or on Twitter, Karen and I spoke with the amazing Kat Kan, Mike Pawuk, and Pamela Jayne on the Graphic Novel Stage on Monday during the ALA Annual Convention about Free Comic Book Day Programming. The panel was sponsored by Diamond Comics, the awesome people who are behind Free Comic Book Day

L-R: Karen, Christie, Pamela, Kat, & Mike

Notice the microphones? Yea. Well, I’m usually loud enough in *any* room that I don’t need them, and I don’t remember the last time I used one. I didn’t use one to present at the Texas Library Association this past April, don’t use one in my programs, and even our Rock Band microphone is broken so I don’t use it. We were asked a series of questions, and the last one for the panel was has there been any surprises that you’ve had with Free Comic Book Day in your community?

I answered, yes, the ownership that the patrons take of it. There’s always a line for the comics and they’re always asking when the next one is, and they’re proud that their library is having this ultra-cool event, so much so that they’ll take their free comic to school the next Monday and show it off- Look what I got at my library on Saturday! And their friends (or those that didn’t go to a library participating in Free Comic Book Day) will get all upset because they didn’t get a comic, and say “I GOT SCREWED!” 

Now, I don’t work with microphones, and was doing pretty well until then, but I raised my voice, and if you were anywhere on the Exhibits floor on Monday around 12:30-40 p.m., “I GOT SCREWED!” echoed throughout the area. That was me. I did wear a grown-up shirt, I want to point out, so I was professional looking when I did it. It even had a collar.

If you’re interested in the other questions and answers, keep on going….

-How did you decide to have a FCBD event at your library?
I’ve had FCBD programming at my various libraries since it started in 2002, at my first library in Roanoke, Texas. There wasn’t a comic shop in the town, so we had special performers come in- the first year we had a graphic artist talk about how to create comic panels, the second year a different artist during the town festival. I’ve carried it with me wherever I’ve worked.

Karen: The first year someone posted on Yalsa-bk, “What are you doing for Free Comic Book Day?”  The next year I made sure not to miss it and have done so almost every year since.

-What kind of programming did you have?
The past 5 years I’ve had giveaways in conjunction with the local comic shop, as well as special programming. This past FCBD we had low tech gaming that was tied into comic books: we set up tables with games that were tied into comics in some way (Star Wars Monopoly, Marvel Chess) and watched the Adam West Batman Movie. Previous years we’ve had cartoonists, art lessons, local superhero legions come in and pose for photos, even the 501st Vaders Fist able to come in for part of the day.

Karen: I have had caricature artists several years.  I also make comic book panels and graphic novel page layouts using the shapes feature in Publisher to create blank pages for my teens to design their own comics/gns.  You can also use the Comic Book app on your iPhone (they were developing one for Android as well) to create pictures and actual comic book pages.

Made using Comic Book app on the iPhone

-Some logistics (where in the library was it held, who ran it, what kind of displays, etc.)

Karen and I work in the same system but different branches, and the programming is usually very separate, although we constantly bounce ideas off of each other. I staff my own events, and my husband volunteers to help out. Additionally, I’ll have some teen volunteers to help set-up and take down tables and chairs. Bowles is in a community building: we have our library (3000 square feet), plus a separate computer lab designed for housing classes, a game room, a rec center complete with gym and workout floor, a police office front, and two community rooms which is what we use for programming.  Displays depending on who was coming- we always had the FCBD posters, and posters from Cosmic Comics (our local shop, which had their own event as well); if we were doing more of a Star Wars themed event, we’d have pulled Star Wars books from across the system, while if we were having an artist come in we’d pull drawing books, or if we were talking about anime we’d pull different types of anime books.

Karen: Before joining Christie at this library system, I worked at a library in Marion where I had a large teen area.  I usually had my program right there in the teen area.  I did not have all my programs here, but this one I did because it was usually a come and go program and it worked well in the teen area.  Plus, this allowed my teens to browse my graphic novel collection while they were waiting.

-What kind of turnout/feedback did you get?
We always get a lot in just for the comics- so much so that we have to limit it to one per person per day, otherwise we would run out of comics before the day was out and have some very upset patrons. For programs, it depends greatly on the weather, the program itself, and what else is going on in the community. This past FCBD we had about 25 stay for the program part itself, but we were out of the 200 comics before the end of the day- however, it was also our city’s Cinco de Mayo parade and festival, which is huge within my community, which is why I didn’t schedule a performer for the day. The previous year, we had almost 100 with superheroes, and we had over 300 with the 501st. We had 50 with the artist class, which was room capacity.

Karen: We always got pretty good turn out for our Free Comic Book day events.  Even outside of the actual program, we had the comic books available all day at our Reference Desk and we usually gave out 200+.  Our comics were donated by the local comic book store, but the current comic book store asks us to pay for them at the discounted price of $.50 a title.  The teens themselves are very enthusiastic about the event, and it usually provides me an opportunity to have conversations with adults about the value of comic books.

Comic Shops
-Do you participate with comic shops?
-How so?
-How did you go about partnering with them?
I’ve partnered with comic shops and I’ve always approached them.  I always go in person and introduce myself- being a comic lover helps- and get to know the shop and the owners. I’m also not a one-time visitor; for example, with the current shop, Cosmic Comics, a lot of my kids will go there for their Yu-Gi-Oh cards, and I’ll purchase gift cards for prizes for other events. I’ve also always had to purchase my comics from the shops I’ve worked with- I know other librarians have talked about how they’ve gotten free comics from shops, but I’ve always offered to pay, and that seems to work really well because I know that it’s a cost for the shops to do this event, and it keeps going up every year. And Mike (the owner of Cosmic) takes really good care of me- he’ll make sure we get above and beyond what we ordered, and sneak in other comics that perhaps didn’t sell as well so that we have plenty for FCBD.
-Did you bring in any guests? (creators, etc.)
-How did you find/contact them?
-How were they to work with?
I’ve done caricture artists, and done artist classes. I haven’t had the budget to bring in graphic creators yet. We have Funimation and Reel FX in the area, as well as some other studios, and while they have been receptive to getting some of their creative team to come out, I haven’t been able to get them- I have faith, however. 

Karen: I did one year have a local to Ohio illustrator come in and do a drawing workshop with the teens.  I found him using my ninja library research skills.  Most big cities have a good database of local caricature artists, which is how I found ours.  When booking a caricature artist it is important to ask how many caricatures they can draw by the hour.  They charge by the hour, and it is not cheap, so we could only ever afford 2 hours.  You want an artist who can draw upwards of 10 to 15 per hours as opposed to one who can do five per the hour.  Also, they probably have online reviews which you will also want to check out.

-Do you have a large graphic novel collection in the library?
-How does it circulate?
My graphic novel collection is not huge my any standards, I have approximately 680 titles out of 10,000 collection. My current ordering budget is $7200 for the entire year, and that has to be split up throughout all the collection, so I have to be selective about what I buy. It is a very busy collection, and circulates a lot, both within the system and in-house. I also have a great set of teens that are constantly suggesting titles to purchase and series to track down- my to-buy list wish list is bigger than my annual budget.

Karen:  We have a graphic novel collection at both my current and my previous library.  To be honest, I am not a huge graphic novel reader – but I am a huge graphic novel supporter.  In fact, I get asked daily for graphic novels and they are increasingly popular with my MG readers as well.  I would love to pull my MG GNs out and create a separate section in the J FIC area as well to meet this high demand item, but it would require some cataloging and space that are issues for the moment.  I am always surprised not only by how popular they are, but they are just as popular with the girls as they are with the boys.  In fact, my Tween has recently read quite a few.

Karen’s final words:  It was such an honor to be a part of this panel.  And it was amusing to me to see my coworker and best fiend turn crimson as “I got screwed” echoed throughout the exhibit hall.  It was also an honor to sit up there with Kat Kan and Mike Pawuk and be a representative for those librarians who really don’t know a lot about graphic novels, but support the medium because it has value and teens love them.  And yes, yes I did wear my hair in Princess Leia buns, because I was having an epically bad hair day.  It happens.  But we can pretend I was making some Meta tie in to how Free Comic Book Day was on May 4th this year.  Yeah, let’s go with that.

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