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Library Matters

Library Matters is a podcast by Montgomery County Public Libraries exploring the world of books, libraries, technology, and learning.
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Library Matters is a podcast of Montgomery County Public Libraries (MCPL) in Montgomery County, MD. Each episode we explore the world of books, libraries, technology, and learning. Library Matters is hosted by Julie Dina, Outreach Associate, Lauren Martino, Children's Librarian at our Silver Spring branch, and David Payne, Branch Manager of our Davis branch and Acting Branch Manager of our Potomac branch.  

Jan 9, 2019

Listen to the audio

David Payne:  Welcome to Library Matters with your host David Payne.  Today it's MoComCon time again.  MCPL’s Annual Comic Convention MoComCon is always one of the highlights of the year for MCPL and we trust for the community as well.  So with MoComCon 2019 around the corner delighted to welcome two members of the planning committee MoComCon this year Dana Alsup, Head of Adult Services at the Marilyn Praisner branch welcome. 

Dana Alsup:  Hi.

David Payne:  I should say welcome back veteran of many appearances. 

Dana Alsup:  Yes, several appearances on the podcast.

David Payne:  And still smiling.  And also welcome to Beth Chandler from our Collection Management Division.  Again, welcome back to you Beth. 

Beth Chandler:  Oh, thank you, glad to be back here and talking about one of my favorite events of the year at the library. 

David Payne:  Great.  Well, I'm sure MoComCon, 2019 is going to be bigger and better than anything before but let's start with the basics perhaps.  Let me ask you both to tell us a bit about what MoComCon is all about, when and where will it be taking place and what kind of audience is it for.  We start with you Dana. 

Dana Alsup:  It's for everyone.  It really is for everyone.  We have stuff that goes from preschools through adults.  It will be at the Silver Spring Library on January 19, 2019.  There is a few different start times.  So if you are one of those preschoolers or a parent of a preschooler we have two story times one at 10 AM, one at10:30 AM.  It was very popular last year so we added a second one.  And then you can start registering for our Cosplay Contests and our escape rooms at 11 AM.  And then all of the programs start at 12 and they run until 4 o'clock. 

Beth Chandler:  Yeah, we have quite a bit.  We have a couple of favorites coming back about focusing on a couple of new things.  We are going to have WiiU with Mario Kart and also an Oculus Rift to play a VR game.

David Payne:  You can tell us more about that, that sounds fascinating.

Beth Chandler:  Oh, my goodness.  It’s a large virtual reality glasses that you put on and the particular thing we have is called what’s the name again Dana?

Dana Alsup:  It’s called Beat Saber and I like to describe it as dance, dance revolution for your arms.  You hold onto two things in your hands and then what you see are boxes flying at you and you have to hit them in a certain pattern with light sabers.  It's going to be pretty awesome. 

David Payne:  Right.

Dana Alsup:  And we’re getting I think two of them and they come from the state library.  They are loaning them out to us for this event. 

Beth Chandler:  Yes, one of the many things paid for by your state tax dollars.  So if you want to get a bit of a return on that come try some virtual reality that's pretty much for all ages who are old enough to manage the equipment.  We literally do have things for preschoolers through seniors, including author Don Sakers coming back.  He is going to be doing just one writing and publishing workshop but we have got a nice big room to fit aspiring writers.  And we also have someone coming from visionary comics to talk about comics publishing for people who are more along the lines of comics artists.  FutureMakers are coming back with a special 3D craft.  See what else do we have of course the Cosplay Contest. 

Dana Alsup:  We have the Cosplay Contest.  Those are at 3:30 in the afternoon and we have children, teens and adults WiiU.  There is only 20 participants for each so registrations are until 11.  We also have the Washington Metropolitan Gamer Symphony Orchestra coming they are sending a string quartet and they play different videogame and movie songs which should be very fun. 

David Payne:  That’s great.  Where will they be located?

Dana Alsup:  They will be in the third floor meeting room.  So they'll be at 1:15.  They’re sandwiched by Don Sakers before them, and then Chuck Sellner who is doing the comics publishing one on one after them.

David Payne:  Well, it sounds really exciting.  I think it's safe to say that MoComCon isn’t only for comic book lovers.

Dana Alsup:  It's not.  It's really for anyone.  If you just didn’t want – even if you just want to come in and do some crafts or have your face painted there is lots of different activities.  You don't have to be a super hero buff or comic person to join MoComCon. 

Beth Chandler:  We have our exhibitors too.  We have a couple of people from stores that sell comic books and related items. 

Dana Alsup:  Although they will not be selling –.

Beth Chandler:  Excuse me, no.  They won’t be selling at the event but we will have some local groups you know costumers and people like that as well. 

Dana Alsup:  However, our friends at the library will be having their book sale again and they will also be selling T-shirts this year.  They look different than the staff T-shirts but they will be selling those along with their graphic novels that they’ll have there on the third floor. 

Beth Chandler:  Yes, so if you want to proclaim to the world that you attended MoComCon ‘19 you can wear a T-shirt that says so. 

David Payne:  Looking back at last year’s event I can't remember offhand what the total attendance was.  I remember it was quite staggering and I'm sure there’ll be a big turnout this year and I presume most of the attendees will come from the local Montgomery County area.  But as word spreads about MoComCon do you know of people coming from further away on planet Earth at least. 

Dana Alsup:  I know that I think most people come from either Maryland or D.C.  We did have and we had a presenter I think last year or the year before that came from New York to come and participate.  So she came.  I don't know if anyone comes from out of state yeah, but they definitely come from out of county.  They’re not all Montgomery County residents that might have something to do with the fact that I drop off flyers in other counties as well. 

David Payne:  Right.

Dana Alsup:  And we marketed outside of the county as well. 

David Payne:  Yeah, right.  Now let’s turn to this year's event.  What are some of the highlights we can expect at this year’s MoComCon and will there be anything new?

Dana Alsup:  Well, we already talked about some of them.  Some of the newer ones are the symphony orchestra quartet coming.  Don has been there in the past two years and his event has been so popular that we put him in the big room.  This year we haven't had or we’ve had video games and that we've had Minecraft before but we decided to switch it up and do Mario Kart and then have Oculus Rift, which we just found out about last week that we got that.  FutureMakers has come before, but they are doing something different this year.  It's called thermoforming which is used when making masks for all of this Cosplay things costumes, but this is not masks, they're just doing a simple thing to give you the concept of it. 

And we’ll have our face painters and craftists same as last year and we will have an escape, we’ll have two escape rooms this year.  One is run by Game of Rooms, which is an escape room company in I think Gaithersburg is where they’re located and they’re doing the eight to 13 age Harry Potter themed escape room.  And then staff has put together another escape room for adults, teens and adults it's 14 and up, and its Game of Thrones themed.  You don't have to have knowledge of Harry Potter and Game of Thrones to play though you don't have to know anything about Jon Snow to be successful in our escape rooms.

David Payne:  Anything you like to add Beth?

Beth Chandler:  Yes, our crafts are new this year.  So one of the ones that looks really Q is little superhero puppets.  You can create your own superhero and put them together with Brad so that the arms can move and so we’re glad to be able to switch that up a bit. 

David Payne:  Sounds great.  So with all this in mind let me ask you both what are you most looking forward to MoComCon 2019?  Let me start with you Beth. 

Beth Chandler:  Oh, I just like seeing all of the people who come having fun.  Last year, I spent a lot of time with our Button Maker and people we go through scraps and find the piece that they want and you’ll cut it just the right shape and maybe color it if it's black and white.  And we make little buttons so they can have cool buttons with a favorite character or something else cool on it.  And people were just having a blast and it was fun to see all the different things people brought to make buttons and it really was all ages.  We had parents making their own buttons as well as helping their little kids.

David Payne:  That’s great and Dana. 

Dana Alsup:  This year although I love all the smiling faces.  I think I’m looking forward to Oculus Rift I will be terrible at it.  But I haven't seen it before, so I'm excited to experience it.  And the first year we had VR but I didn't have time to do it, so we’re going to get it up and running the night before.  So I think a staff can take a turn at it and only embarrass ourselves in front of each other and not. 

David Payne:  Get those arms to workout. 

Dana Alsup:  Right, not everyone else.

David Payne:  Yeah, so let’s go back – back in time a bit as we mentioned this is the third year of MoComCon.  Let’s go back to the beginning and tell us how MoComCon came into existence Dana?

Dana Alsup:  It started with I think it was three or four staff members who wanted to do something specifically for teens and this was their proposals to do an event a comic con type event.  And it quickly snowballed and gained interests, and so we developed it into something that was all-encompassing all ages.  So as we’ve said at the third time preschool to senior.  And it was accepted by the then director Parker and our Acting Director, Anita has graciously let us continue to do this.  So it's – but I think they did a lot of research a number of other systems do this and it's been successful at other library systems as well. 

David Payne:  And Beth, have you been involved since the beginning?

Beth Chandler:  I have indeed is the person who buys comic books and is someone who has worked with related programs in the past.  I was absolutely thrilled and basically begged to get on the committee.  So I'm delighted to have been one of the “founding members”.  The first year it was a lot of work, but we learned how to streamline the work over the last couple of years and what sort of things we can and can't do as staff as well as finding a really generous array of local talent for people and organizations to participate and do the programming.

David Payne:  Great, that actually leads me into my next question which is that as MoComCon has developed and grown over these past couple of years, what are some of the things you've learned about setting it up? Let me start with you Beth.

Beth Chandler:  Oh, I would say crowd management working out the best ways to do lines, when to do lines, when to do tickets.  One of our challenges is keeping the area in front of the elevators clear so that people can get in and out of the elevators.  One of the things that at times you’ll help create crowds but also help to entertain crowds is having some Star Wars Cosplayers in. 

Dana Alsup:  Yes, R2-D2 last year was epic I think is the correct word. 

But we had to keep R2 away from the elevator as soon as he got out of the elevator we had to quickly get R2 away.  Him and his handler I know he is not a real thing.  I will say other challenges we've eliminated some things that were challenges or that created too much work as Beth said we streamline things.  We had the themed fandom rooms and they took a long time to set up and so this year we eliminated them just to give ourselves a little bit of a break and so we could set up the rest of the event in a more timely manner because they were – they took a lot of time.

Beth Chandler:  But if you enjoy Finnish things we do have scavenger hunts this year.

Dana Alsup:  Yeah, we have two scavenger hunts.

Beth Chandler:  Yes, one for kids and one for teens and adults.  So we think that will provide a lot of enjoyment and of course people can always take pictures not just for the teen and adult scavenger hunt which is I think it's Snapchat based. 

Dana Alsup:  It’s an Instagram scavenger hunt.  So you’ll have I think it's five or six clues or things you need to take pictures of like get your superhero squad and take a picture, find your favorite graphic novel, take a picture with it, with a specific hash tag.  And then we’ll go through at the end and if you got all five or six of these clues then we’ll do a quick raffle and you’ll get a prize. 

David Payne:  So looking back to the very first MoComCon, did you both think that it will be an annual event, was that the intention or –?

Dana Alsup:  I think it was the intention.  But honestly we had no idea what was going to happen.  And when the library opened at 10 and everything is set up and you're just standing there waiting I was down on the third floor at the tech bar which we use as the information desk and it was like are people going to show up, do they know that this happens.  And within I don't know 15, 20 minutes I was saying the same thing for the next four hours, welcome to MoComCon, this is what you can do today, here is the events.  This is what you can do, do you want to register right away and it was nonstop and I didn't realize I was tired until I sat down in my car.  So on that first year no one knew what to expect and when creating an event from scratch is so much work.  But now we use a lot of the same models and same outlines that we've had these past couple of years, so it makes it a slightly easier. 

David Payne:  Obviously it’s a great community event.  What’s the most positive effect do you think MoComCon has on the community? Let me start with you Beth.

Beth Chandler:  I think one of them is people who might not otherwise think of coming into the library come in.  I know we had a lot of teens and twenty some things come in.  We tend to get a lot of families and senior citizens but we did get some of the younger people coming in and we also I think expanded people's ideas of what the library could be. 

Dana Alsup:  I agree with everything Beth just said.

Beth Chandler:  Yeah, it also made teens lets people know that the library is a very a comics friendly place, a crafts friendly place, a fandom friendly place that we’re not just about your regular novels and children's books and educational things but we’re about fun and creativity and high-tech also. 

David Payne:  Yeah, and we should also mention that the whole event is completely free.

Beth Chandler:  Completely free. 

Dana Alsup:  Yes that because we know it can cost over $100, sometimes several $100 to go to some of the big conventions.  And this way, people don't have to worry about money.  And one of the reasons that we aren’t selling things is the parents don't have to worry about their children begging to be bought something, but they can go home with several crafts if they want and pictures and of course a lot of memories. 

David Payne:  So if anybody looking to participate as a volunteer, how can one get information on volunteering?

Dana Alsup:  I would contact us via social media, and then the social media team will forward that to me and I'll be in contact with them.  But we are in – we’re always looking for volunteers the whole day, part of the day, you get a free T-shirt. 

Beth Chandler:  And yes, for teens, we can offer –.

Dana Alsup:  SSL Hours.

Beth Chandler:  SSL Hours. 

David Payne:  And for anybody unable to make it actually to the actual event can customers participate in any other way?

Dana Alsup:  We’re having lots of – all the branches are having lead up programs or most of them are having lead up programs.  And one of our presenters Don Sakers will actually be doing two events one in Olney and one in Germantown.  And he has been extremely popular at MoComCon in past years where we have a – we had him in a smaller room and there was a limit and people were sneaking in.  And so we were having him do some other events so more people can see him and more people can participate up county that way as well rather than down county and Silver Spring. 

David Payne:  Just look behind the scenes obviously for those people who go it's a spectacular event.  But tell us how it actually comes about, what's the planning cycle and will he be planning for the next one almost straight after MoComCon 2019 is finished?

Dana Alsup:  I will be.  As the team lead I don't stop and MoComCon does not stop for me.  A couple of weeks after the event we all come together and we have a discussion about what worked, what didn't work, what feedback we got from customers and how we can make improvements or change things to be better for the following year.  And I almost immediately start figuring out how to make those changes happen.  So it does, I get about a two week break and then it kicks back up again like halfway through February for me. 

The rest of the team although I will say those that have been on the team, which most of them I think six or seven of us have done it all three years now.  I don't think that the thought of it stops.  I think that we see things and we write little notes about other possibilities or we meet someone as a presenter during summer reading and we try and pull that in.  But the actual teen planning part doesn't start until June or July.  So we spend seven months planning this and we meet in person once a month as a team and then there is many emails back and forth in between all those meetings and phone calls.

Beth Chandler:  And documents created or updated. 

Dana Alsup:  Documents, yeah, we have a joint page where we should have all of our documents and calendars and things get changed.  I mean, even now are the MoComCon schedule that's up on the website has been changed three times because we’ve changed you know, we added like we were adding our Oculus Rift or changed something and it doesn't stop.

David Payne:  Yeah, so check the website for. 

Dana Alsup:  Yes, check the website for those up-to-date information.

David Payne:  So with that in mind, let me ask you both what's the first thing you’re going to do when MoComCon is over.  Let’s start with you Beth.

Beth Chandler:  I am going to collapse into a comfortable chair and probably at a restaurant have a nice dinner and get some rest. 

Dana Alsup:  It's similar.  Last year I got into my car and it was so quiet and I just sat there reveling in the silence because it's very noisy in the building.  And there is a lot of just kind of shouting things to other people across the room to try and tell someone something.  So it's I like this silence and then I pretty much just go home and I forced my husband to figure out dinner that night.  It’s usually Taco Bell then.  And this year it's the Saturday before Martin Luther King Jr.  Day so we get a full two day weekend after this, which is thrilling. 

David Payne:  So now and to put you on the spot you're going to be wearing the MoComCon T-shirt.  But if you could come in costume, who would you come as Dana?

Dana Alsup:  Jeez, I don’t know.  Probably, I’m a Star Wars fan so I’d probably be like a Han Solo though I figure that out.  Although, I’d leave my blaster at home because there is no weapons or fake weapons allowed at MoComCon.  So we wouldn't have to have the question of who shot first. 

Beth Chandler:  Oh, I have the fantasy end covered.  I’m a big Manga & Anime fan and I actually have a costume for Rahab, who is 800-year-old mage.  She is a minor character in the Manga & Anime, the ancient magus bride and I just love elder wise women types so I'd probably do that. 

David Payne:  So from costumes to theme songs if MoComCon had a theme song, what do you think it might be? Start with you Beth. 

Beth Chandler:  I was racking my brains.  I mentioned this to my husband and being a big Hayao Miyazaki fan, he said why not the song from My Neighbor Totoro.  I’m like oh, walking song.  Hey, let’s go, hey, let’s go.  I'm happy as can be. 

Dana Alsup:  I like that.

David Payne:  Could you follow that Dana?

Dana Alsup:  No, I can’t.  I think it would need its own new song of course. 

Beth Chandler:  Well, that's an idea for next year.  We have a song writing contest. 

Dana Alsup:  There we go, yet another contest.  I think it would have to be like I don't even know the name of the song, but You're The Best Around like I just it feels that way to me and that’s how I feel about the team too.  I would be completely lost as a team lead if it wasn't for that team. 

Beth Chandler:  Okay, I should add, we have the most fun meetings usually at meetings like okay, what's next on the agenda and you know, who wants to do this and we hear crickets.  And ours it's something like okay, who wants to do the research on this video game like volunteers could you?

David Payne:  Right. 

Dana Alsup:  Yeah, we do use a lot of terms from comic con type things like tribute or we’ll have floor prefects this year and I think I’ll have them wear peas. 

David Payne:  So are there any special characters that one should be on the lookout for?

Dana Alsup:  We usually have the FIFO first come and so they are Stormtroopers and they walk around.  They’re great for a photo op, get your like Christmas card photo for next year.  Last year, Chewbacca came and R2 as I’ve already mentioned which when R2 came in I think I screamed.  I was so excited about it.  We haven't gotten word officially if R2 will be there or not but those are our main cosplayers are Star Wars cosplayers.  And then people come, our first year we had a group of people come just because they were so excited and they brought their like very serious cosplay cast students. 

Beth Chandler:  Oh, those were the Mortal Kombat Cosplayers.

Dana Alsup:  Yeah.

Beth Chandler:  They were fantastic. 

Dana Alsup:  They were amazing and Wonder Woman was there as well.  All those photos of them are on our Flickr accounts.  They were amazing and they didn't even want to participate in the Cosplay Contest.  They just wanted to be there as photo ops for customers to take pictures which I thought was very nice of them. 

David Payne:  So do have any idea what time the Stormtroopers might be there or –?

Dana Alsup:  They usually get there before the branch opens and then they change and then they walk around and they usually take a break.  The first year I can’t remember a kid said where is Kylo Ren.  He is here, he is somewhere because he had been walking around and I had just given Kylo Ren a water bottle then I said even villains need water breaks. 

Beth Chandler:  Yeah, I've been really delighted to see the array.  Last year I actually saw Nausicaa from Nausicaa of the Valley of Wind.  I mentioned, my husband and I are both Miyazaki fans and we were talking beforehand I would love to see one punch man.  He is a Manga superhero who can defeat anybody and I mean anybody with just a single punch.  And he looks like this ordinary, actually he looks like a very boring 20 or 30 something guy with a bald head, but yet I think it would be hilarious if someone cosplayed him.  It’s very funny Manga.  So I wouldn't be surprised if we see him.  We have seen people play Haikyu, Hetalia and some other I know we’ve had at least one or two people from Naruto of course.  So we’ve seen more Anime in a lot of the characters. 

Dana Alsup:  Always a few doctors. 

Beth Chandler:  Oh, yes.

David Payne:  Yeah, so for those attending be prepared for anything. 

Beth Chandler:  Yes. 

Dana Alsup:  Yeah, you never know who you’re going to meet. 

David Payne:  Right, we’ll bump into, yeah.  So for those interested in finding the most up-to-date information where can they check to find it?

Dana Alsup:  On our website.  So on the MCPL website just under the search box for a catalog you'll see MoComCon there and you can click on that and it's going to have the schedule of events which you can print out and bring with you, which I recommend because we don't hand out the schedules because we save paper.  So we’ll have that there.  And then there is also the registration forms for the Cosplay Contests there if you want to print it out and fill it out beforehand.  If you are under the age of 18 your guardian must sign that form. 

David Payne:  So we hope the weather will be kind to us, but in case it isn't, is there a weather date?

Beth Chandler:  Yes, we do.  It's two weeks from then, I believe its February 2nd.  Dana is checking on the precise date.

Dana Alsup:  February 2nd, yes. 

Beth Chandler:  February 2nd and I would also like to add that when we say everybody is welcome we meet everybody.  Although the crowds might take a bit to get through we are fully handicapped accessible library.  And if anyone needs sign language interpreters just contact your local library and tell them that you intend to go to MoComCon and when you would like the sign language interpreters.  If anyone needs a quiet space at that point our coloring room is going to be somewhat quiet.  And the first floor should also be fairly quiet it’s just the post office and the coffee place.

Dana Alsup:  Yes, I would assume the post office will be kind of quiet.  We call it our superhero break room as our quiet room coloring room just little break.

David Payne:  You want to get away from it all.  Oh, yeah.

Dana Alsup:  Yeah, take off your cape. 

David Payne:  So we traditionally close our episodes by asking the guests what are you currently reading comic book or otherwise.  So let me start with you Beth?

Beth Chandler:  Well, of course, I am reading Graphic Novels.  I recently finished Upgrade Soul which is a very serious adult graphic novel dealing with the future way of making older people young again and of course the technology does not work as it's intended. 

David Payne:  Bit of a problem there. 

Beth Chandler:  Yes, it is.  It’s multi-award-winning.  I definitely recommend it if you want some really good serious science fiction and it is also wonderfully diverse. 

David Payne:  And Dana?

Dana Alsup:  I’m on a bit of a biography binge.  I just read Phyllis Reynolds Naylor's book Crazy Love, which is wonderful and she is a local author.  And now I'm reading Michelle Obama's Becoming.  And I have another biography on deck for next just in a biography binge. 

David Payne:  Well, Dana and Beth thank you very much indeed for coming in and sharing your knowledge of MoComCon 2019 and previewing it.  It sounds like a great event.  We’re really looking forward to it.  Keep the conversation going by following us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest.  Don’t forget to subscribe to the podcast on the Apple podcast app Stitcher or wherever you get your podcasts.  Also, please review and write to us on Apple podcast.  We love to know what you think.  Thank you for listening to our conversation today and see you next time.

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