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How to Run A Successful ComiCon in Your Library

Lucas Maxwell


Lucas Maxwell has been working with youth in libraries for over fifteen years. Originally from Nova Scotia, Canada, he's been a high school librarian in London, UK for over a decade. In 2017 he won the UK's School Librarian of the Year award and in 2022 he was named the UK Literacy Association's Reading For Pleasure Teacher Champion. He loves Dungeons & Dragons and is the author of Let's Roll: A Guide for Setting up Tabletop Roleplaying Games in Your School or Public Library. You can follow him on Twitter and on his blog.

I recently ran another ComiCon in my school library. I haven’t done it in a while due to Covid restrictions. Therefore I was nervous that it wouldn’t work out or that perhaps students wouldn’t show up, mainly because I ran it on a Saturday.

I’ve written before about the important role comics have in literacy, and I wanted to showcase comics for the students in a big way.

I was very excited to see it become a huge success. While yes I was exhausted, as I ran it entirely on my own, but the students had a lot of fun and I was very pleased with how smoothly it all came together. When I was in high school we had nothing like this, so my goal was to create something that 13-year-old me would have wanted to attend. Running an event like this is a gamble, but in my opinion, if you do some solid planning, promote the event, and have fun with it, your library ComiCon will be a big success.

Summarised Version

In case you are deciding on running one, here are the things that helped me the most.

First, the summarised version:

  • I held it on a Saturday from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. (long day, but worth it!)
  • I had a limit of 50 students (nearly that number attended for the entire day)
  • I had a guest manga artist
  • I gave out free comics
  • I rented a button (or badge if you’re in the UK) maker
  • I brought in board games from home

The Detailed Version

Email Parents Early

With permission, I created an email group of parents who were interested in having their students sign up. I did this weeks in advance of the event so I could keep them informed. In the letter, I included the timings, who was going to be present, all of the activities that were taking place, and when it would end. The email included other things like the fact that students did not need to wear their school uniform (most, if not all public schools in the UK have school uniforms, we are not a private school) and that students should bring their own lunch but snacks would be provided. Setting up this information early was essential in ensuring everyone was on the same page. My advice is to be as detailed as possible, as this will avoid having to explain any ambiguities.

Board games on a table
Image Courtesy of Lucas Maxwell

Run it on a Saturday

This won’t work for everyone, and not everyone wants to work a day for free, but I chose Saturday purely because it’s hard to get students out of lessons to attend events. Doing the program after school would result in having limited numbers and would reduce the length I could run the event.

Working in a public library? This is probably not an issue at all. Being in a school library meant there were some potentially more challenges timing wise. Having the ComiCon on a Saturday meant I could run the event from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. with no interruptions. I was pleased that I had nearly 50 students attend the event on a beautiful sunny Saturday.

Hire a Guest Speaker

In the past, I’ve been very fortunate to have colleagues who have partners that are in the comic book world to be guest speakers at our ComiCon. I only found this out by advertising the event heavily to both students and staff members. I was very pleased to have renowned manga artist Chie Kutsuwada (Illustrator of the Carnegie-nominated novel Tsunami Girl) visit to deliver a manga workshop. Chie was amazing and had all 47 students engaged and drawing for nearly two hours.

If your library can afford it, having a special guest is really worth it.

Rent a Button Maker

Button makers are ridiculously popular with our students. They love drawing their own and taking their badges home. If you have a party shop nearby, take advantage of this! In the end we made around 100 buttons, this cost me approximately £40 ($50 USD) to have for the day.

I can’t stress enough how fun and easy these are.

Reach Out to Comic Book Shops

I called a comic book shop near me and told them of my idea. They gave me hundreds of free comics to give away and to use as crafts, which we did. We made comic book bookmarks and keychains. Students cut out comics to use in our button maker, and it was a ton of fun.

My suggestion is to call your local comic book shop and just ask for free comics. They might say no, but they might surprise you and give you a boat load of comics. My response would be to buy a bunch of comics and manga from them to say thank you. Usually, when comic book shops find out you’re running a ComiCon, they get as excited as you!

Bring Food

An easy choice for the ComiCon, make sure you communicate clearly with parents on what food will be present and be nut free anyway just to be safe.

Break up the Day

Our ComiCon went like this:

10 a.m. – 11 a.m.: Button Making / Board Games / Crafts / Pictionary / Quizzes:  I had stations all around the library where they could take part in all kinds of different activities.

11 a.m. – 1 p.m.: Guest Speaker. I did not expect ours to go 2 hours, but it was awesome and students loved it.

1 p.m. – 1:30 p.m.: Students went back to badge making and board games while I cleared up from the guest speaker.

1:30 p.m. – 4 p.m.: Dungeons & Dragons. We had D&D card games set up and I ran a one-shot D&D adventure for a large group while the others drew comics, snacked, and did quizzes. A lot of our comic book / manga fans are D&D fanatics so this worked out very well.

Was it exhausting? Yes, but it was very much worth it. I feel it has introduced students to a wide range of new books and activities, and brought the library into a whole new light for many. The event created a safe space where students could relax and be with their friends on the weekend.

What else can you do in your school library? Check out how to create a literary escape room, and find inspiration for incorporating play into your elementary school library.