By Steven Hoffman
Comic book conventions have exploded in popularity in recent years, but these boisterous celebrations of the coolest elements of pop culture aren’t just for San Diego and New York City anymore.
Insta- Con, a popup pop culture convention of surprisingly large proportions, is being planned by the Bayard Taylor Memorial Library in Kennett Square for Saturday, July 12. According to Ivy Noelle Weir, the Young Adult Services Coordinator for the library, the idea behind Insta-Con is to bring some of the excitement of larger comic book conventions to the local community.
Insta-Con developed out of discussions that Weir had with members of the library’s Teen Advisory Board. A 14-year-old girl came up with the name “Insta-Con.”
“The Teen Advisory Board noticed the increasing popularity of convention culture and ‘geek chic’ and wanted to take advantage of that nerdy excitement by putting on a small-scale convention of their own,” Weir said. “A few phone calls, emails, and Twitter messages later, Insta-Con is a full-fledged pop culture event that will completely take over the library with special guests, panels, talks, games, and more.”
The Teen Advisory Board is just one aspect of the library’s effort over the last two years to expand programming for teens. The library has added new technology, scheduled diverse programs, and brought in more books that appeal specifically to teens. The expanded and reorganized graphic novel section has earned national acclaim, for instance.
“We’ve been trying to engage that age group,” said Weir of the effort to bring teens into the library. “That can be a hard group to reach, but with the Teen Advisory Board, we’ve definitely seen a spike in interest this summer.”
Approximately 12 teens serve on the Teen Advisory Board, which meets regularly with Weir to come up with ways for the library to offer activities that are interesting for teens. If the old image of a library is that of a place to be quiet, the new image of a library is of a community gathering place that is fun for people of all ages.
Insta-Con certainly fits in with the vision of a modern library. Special guests include Kate Leth (“Adventure Time” and “Kate or Die”), Dave Bullock (“JLA: New Frontier” and “Transformers Prime”), Bob Petrecca (a Marvel/DC Comics inker) and Amy Chu (writer for Vertigo/DC Comics and creator of “Girls Night Out”). More guest stars are being added as the date of Insta-Con approaches. There will be panel discussions and talks about book-to-film adaptations, Live Action Role-Playing, costuming, social issues in comics, and more. Cosplay photo opportunities, video games, Magic: The Gathering and tabletop role-playing games will be a part of the program, too. Comics, t-shirts, and other fun stuff will be on sale. But the best part of the event, Weir said, will be that it is absolutely free to attend and Insta-Con will be friendly for all ages.
The library is partnering with The Comic Book Shop of Wilmington, Del., which has been working on expanding its community outreach efforts, on the first Insta-Con.
Weir said that there has been a lot of interest in the event since plans started taking shape, and she would like to see it become a regular event in Kennett Square.
“We’ve had a lot of fun planning it,” Weir said. “I would love to see Insta-Con become an annual event that we can make even bigger.”
The Bayard Taylor Memorial Library is located at 216 East State Street in Kennett Square. For the latest details about Insta-Con, visit the library’s website or Facebook page or email BTMLteens@gmail.com. For more information about volunteering or setting up a table at the event, contact Weir at firstname.lastname@example.org.