by Claire Schmieder, Volunteer Coordinator
previously published 10/22/14
Librarians Are Superheroes (Literally and Figuratively)
Last year, I spent just one day at New York Comic Con, and it was absolutely not enough time for me to take it all in. This year, I snagged a four-day Professional Badge. During those four days, I spent a lot of time at the American Library Association’s booth, both as a volunteer and as an overwhelmed con-goer. This year’s NYCC set attendance records with over 151,000 individual tickets sold. Crowds were intense, especially on Saturday, and I often needed a place to decompress. Despite being in the middle of the exhibit hall, the ALA booth was an oasis—a place where I could find friends to talk to, where I could sit and relax, and where I could people watch to my heart’s content.
All my time at the ALA booth led me to this conclusion: librarians are community builders and public servants wherever they go.
Here’s how this happened at NYCC.
REFERENCE SERVICES: So many people came to the booth with questions. (We joked that we should be keeping data on the questions we were asked.) Here are questions I was asked or overheard while volunteering:
– Where is the nearest bathroom?
– Can you help me find an exhibitor booth? (The NYCC guide—we had several copies stashed behind the booth—or the NYCC app were crucial for this question.)
– What time does the convention open/close?
– How do I get a wristband for one of the Main Stage panels?
– How can I get my children’s book into libraries?
– How can I learn more tech skills to be qualified for other jobs?
BOOTH AS MEETING SPACE: At least one exhibitor (a publisher) approached the booth and asked if they could meet with another exhibitor in our booth later that day. “Our booth is so slammed right now and you’ve got such a nice space here. Is it OK if we have a 30 minute meeting later on this afternoon?” Yes, of course it was totally fine.
PROGRAMS: This year, the booth offered con-goers the chance to take a selfie with a real, live librarian. And plenty of people actually took advantage of the opportunity.
Beyond these standard library services, we also engaged people in conversations about why libraries/librarians matter and why the internet isn’t a substitute for a librarian. When people approached the booth, we often asked them, “Do you love your library?” Nearly every single person answered with an enthusiastic YES. Some con-goers even told us stories about why their library was so important to them.
We also had a lot of fun together, talking about costumes, making plans with each other for the evening,and catching up with friends that we may not see on a regular basis. I came away from the event feeling more connected to librarians who I hadn’t been exceptionally close with, even though I had admired them from afar. Because I don’t work in a library, or have the word “librarian” in my title, this was important to me. Sometimes, I have to be creative about networking and NYCC turned out to be an ideal event.
By the end of NYCC, I felt professionally energized, inspired, and re-engaged—an ideal outcome for an action-packed four days.