21 September 2020
Image credit: Matteson Area Public Library District.

In 2019, the Matteson Area Public Library District organized its first comic-con event, MAPLD FanFest, in April. Initially, we weren’t sure  how our community would receive the idea of a FanFest. We hoped for at least 300 attendees but were pleasantly surprised that we had close to 1,000.

With the success of this program in mind, we started to plan what changes or additions we wanted to make for the 2020 event. We were excited and ready to make it bigger than the last, until everything came to a screeching halt on March 13th, the day our library doors closed due to the pandemic.  

Like everyone, we were pretty lost in the beginning. Transitioning our services strictly to a virtual space was definitely a challenge, and completely going digital with marketing presented its own obstacles. We talked about canceling the FanFest, but honestly that wasn’t an option for me -- I love a good challenge. At the beginning of April, I started planning our 2-day event for August 14th and 15th. Here are the tips and tricks that I have learned from the event:

  1. Marketing: We wanted to avoid overwhelming the library’s main page with content so we had a separate Fanfest website and Facebook page that listed all the vendors, artists, panels and activities. Cross-promotion was done on both pages.
  2. Content: A mix of live and pre-recorded panels premiered on Facebook and YouTube simultaneously. Our panels were both educational and fun. For example, we had a cosplay panel covering diversity and how to get started in cosplay. We had simple craft videos and a live-stream of Jackbox games where patrons could play or watch.
  3. Networking: We used Facebook, Instagram, and other comic cons in the area as a tool to find local talent.
  4. Get Your Staff Involved: Encourage staff to get involved with topics and activities that they enjoy. Our staff created craft videos, hosted Jackbox game live-stream, did a live Disney panel, and draw a-longs.

The reception we had for the event was overwhelmingly positive--more than 6,000 views on all our video content! During this time, as libraries, we want to continue to push educational content, but don't forget that a program like the FanFest is both amazingly fun and educational all wrapped up in a great package. You can create this same event on any scale. At a time like this, it's more important now than ever to remember to have fun and be creative! 

Questions? Feel free to email me at mfonseca2@mapld.org. MAPLD FanFest Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/MAPLDFanFest

Our guest blogger today is Maria Fonseca. Maria is the Digital Information Services Librarian at Matteson Area Public Library.