Photo by Jason Frank
A gathering of superheroes
SUFFOLK COUNTY—On Saturday, the East Islip Library transformed into a gateway where fantasy meets reality. Over 260 attendees from all over Long Island gathered for a wide variety of interactive sci-fi/fantasy-related activities at the facility’s third annual Comic Con. The event proved to be a huge success filled with loads of family-friendly fun throughout the entire day.
Activities included a family scavenger hunt costume contest, Star Wars-themed shootouts and lightsaber battles, a Nintendo Wii tournament, virtual reality experience, a photo booth, green screen, arts and crafts, and makeup.
The event also featured a number of vendors and special guests, such as an exclusive visit with DC artist John Stanisci, who gave a talk about his work and stayed the whole day to mingle with attendees and answer questions. Other featured guests included Star Wars Stormtroopers of the 501st Legion-Empire City Garrison (which has been at the Comic Con all three years), and The Saber Guild, Endor Temple. Both groups consist of volunteers who dress up as Star Wars characters and interact with the public.
The event was formed by a group of library employees who noticed that similar experiences were being offered by other places throughout the region.
“I was sitting at the reference desk one Saturday and a young person called asking if he could look up details about the Comic Con they used to have at the Cradle of Aviation Museum,” recalled Jo-Ann Carhart, head of Adult Services. “We read all the literature and saw that other libraries were starting to have them. So I mentioned to my staff that year that the summer reading club was going to have a superhero theme and that maybe we’d set up an event.”
From there, a small committee was formed in order to learn more about the gaming, comic, and fantasy subculture and adapt concepts developed by other places.
“There are a lot of people who are very passionate about it,” said Carhart. “I think it’s one of those things where if you like something, you want to know everything about it and feel comfortable being with people with similar interests.”
With the influx of many forms of new technology in recent decades, the role of local libraries has changed significantly, in addition to developing a collection of digital content and resources. Saturday’s event is a shining example of how libraries can stay not just relevant – but essential – in their respective communities as cultural gathering centers.
“We’ve really had to change our role and try to become community centers,” said Carhart, who noted that the library’s meeting rooms are utilized more than ever now by various community groups and officials. “We also provide practical things too, like computer classes and art exhibitions.”
Overall, library officials expressed their happiness with this year’s turnout and feedback. They plan to build upon its success for future years.
“It was great to see so many kids and adults alike dressed in costumes,” said library director Guy Edwards. “I want to thank all the volunteers and my staff for their hard work and for making this event so special.”
“We received a lot of gratitude and everybody really seemed to appreciate it,” noted Carhart. “All of the programs were better attended than we expected, which I think is a resounding way of knowing that we tapped into something and people were interested.”
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