Comics & Professional Development

Many professional library positions require MLIS and/or full time employees to participate in some form of professional development. Professional development helps employees learn new skills, technologies, and network with others in the profession. There are many places to look for high quality professional development like professional organizations and certified continuing education course from an ALA accredited library school. However, there are great comic book conventions which I am sure you could convince even the most leery of supervisors are worth sending you to for the sake of professional development!

So, why comic conventions (Comic-Cons)?

I’ve attended the Chicago Comics & Entertainment Expo (C2E2) for the past four years and they have provided me some of the best, and affordable, professional development opportunities. Comic-Cons usually offer professional development days geared towards teachers, librarians, and up-and-coming comic book talent. For example, two really interesting panels at C2E2 this year were Creating Comics as Part of a Literacy Curriculum and Designing for the Geek Community – Reinventing Library Services to Meet the Needs of Geeks in Chicago.

C2E2 Speakers BadgeThey also offer great deals on badge when you provide evidence that you are with one of the aforementioned groups. For C2E2, a full weekend badge normally costs about $65 for three days, but a pro pass will only cost you $25. Being a, “pro” doesn’t provide many perks flat out; however, many people will ask why you have a pro pass. This provides great networking opportunities with both authors and other professional in the business. Plus, if you are on an ALA sponsored panel, which is an opportunity at many conventions, you may even get a speakers badge, which brings its own pride. I believe the ALA Graphic Novel Member Interest Group (ALA-GNMIG) has speaking slots at C2E2 and NYCC (New York City Comic Con) and maybe others I am currently unaware of. Join their Facebook page for more updates.

My experiences at C2E2 have always been extremely positive, but this year was especially wonderful. Through the ALA-GNMIG, I submitted a proposal for a panel and combined with another group with a similar theme. We settled on the name, Comics Collection Quandaries in Libraries, and a topic: discussing how to organize your collection, keep up to date with orders, and provide book recommendations to patrons. It was a really great time and my fellow panelists are the hosts of the podcast The Secret Stacks, Thomas Maluck and Kristin LaLonde. I highly recommend being on a panel if you can. They are a great way to practice your public speaking skills and, I’m going to say it again, network with other professionals. A number of people in the audience of the panel stopped me throughout the rest of the convention to ask questions or just discuss comics in libraries some more.

I love going to panels at C2E2. They have a huge range of topics from the

Children dressed as Baymax and a Transformer
Young Cosplayers

portrayal of women in comics to advice for hobby podcasters. The top three publishers, Marvel, DC, and Image, usually put on large panels to promote new books or creative talent. But this year I was really thinking about how librarians benefit from panels. No matter the topic, panels are a great way to expand your base knowledge for reference shifts. Listening to author, artists, and editors talk about their craft helps me understand creative writing and how writers write. Often fans get to ask questions or make comments during panels, which is great for getting into the mindset of readers and how they make connections. I was really able to take home a lot of new information and ways of thinking this year. Plus, geeking out over seeing Skottie Young and The DC Comics Bombshells creative team set a super high bar for next year!

Ok, so, I’ve convinced you to go to a comic-con for professional development. But these conferences are a little bit different than your formal sit down, meals provided, keynote speaker type of conference.

So, here are a few tips I’ve picked up over my years of attending comic conventions to make the experience as enjoyable as possible.

Personal Needs
Snacks: Convention food can get awfully prices (especially if your employer isn’t paying for meals).
Good footwear: You never know if the floor is going to be concrete or carpet, so bring out those Birkenstocks and Danskos!
Water bottle: STAY HYDRATED!
Good backpack: Important for keeping all your swag, purchases, and snacks in order.
Camera with extra batteries: There are so many amazing costumes at cons, and most cosplayers are great about letting you snap their pictures. Plus, many authors and artists are willing to take a photo with you at signing tables.

Professional Needs
Business cards: Great for networking with other professional you will connect with.
Con App or Program: Keep track of the panels you want to attend and the people you want to see in artist alley.
Notepad and writing utensils: Jot down ideas for programs, books to purchase, or any other ideas to report back to work.
Money from your library or items to have signed: Think about summer reading program. Raffle baskets for fundraising. Thank you gifts for volunteers. Either bring the books with you (though that could get heavy…) or ask for some petty cash to buy books directly from the authors/artists and get them signed right then and there.

Artist Ryan Brownes artwork of Wolverine in an apron cooking bacon on his claws stating, "Who wants some of my hot canadian bacon?"
Commissioned artwork for the kitchen from artist Ryan Browne

Fan Needs
Personal items to be signed: Get out those long boxes and get those issues or trades signed.
Commission artwork: If an artist you are particularly fond of is going to be at the convention, invest in a piece of art. I’ve got a piece from Jock and Ryan Browne, and love looking at them hanging in my house.
Cosplay costume: Just because you are at the convention as a professional, it doesn’t mean you can’t have fun.

And above all, keep your sense of awe and wonder. You never know what you will see at a convention. My favorite thing this year was seeing a bunch of cosplayers in roller skates as BB-8 costumes, meeting Marguerite Bennett, the author of DC Comics Bombshells and connection with librarians across the country.

Have you attend comic-cons for the purpose of professional development? What was your experience like?