Guest Blogger

You Can Con!

Bridging the Geek Divide on a Shoestring Budget

It’s daunting, it’s a lot work, and you will probably need a lot of convincing to do it again next year – but you will.  Once you “con” – a shorter, geekier word for conference – you and your community will be changed forever, people will talk about it for years and most of your subsequent programming will be compared to it.

How much does it cost?

The answer is simple: as much or as little as you want.  A small library can pull off a respectable con for free and even raise money for their Friends group simultaneously.  Bigger libraries can pull off cons that rival a convention center.

Why Con?

The first hurdle is convincing your boss/es as annoyingly, they want to know “why”.  Here’s your elevator speech: In a nutshell, geek culture is “in”.  Plus, a con at the library levels the playing field, giving everyone the chance to attend irrespective of cost or distance.  Con tickets are expensive, and distances can be significant.  The chance to experience and celebrate geek culture at your library bridges the geek divide – all geeks are welcome and represented.  Warm fuzzies!

So here’s your guide to make it happen!

What kind of Con?

  • Specific genre/fandom or general event?

Choose your date wisely

  • Avoid local scheduling conflicts
  • Vendor/performer availability may affect your date

Name your event

  • Make it catchy and memorable.  Ask your teens for ideas!
  • Create a soundbite that explains your event – keep it to 6-10 words

Location, location, location

  • Indoors, outdoors or both?
  • How many exhibitors/vendors/booths can you accommodate where each booth is 10’x10’?

Low on space?  Try these low or no cost options!

  • Public park
  • Partner with a local church, school or community center

Where to find vendors & exhibitors

  • Post a call to action on Facebook
  • Create an event page on Facebook
  • Post in geeky groups that match your con’s theme
  • Go to local cons and invite vendors to your con
  • Google local chapters of Starfleet, 501st Legion, Ghostbusters, Doctor Who groups and other fandoms. Many will come for free.

Events during your event

  • Cosplay contest
  • Gaming
  • Music/entertainers
  • Splendid Teapot Racing:  Invented in New Zealand by crafty steampunks, “racers” are remote controlled cars with teapots for a body.  Competitors navigate an obstacle course of candlesticks, a ramp of doom or other challenges with a three-minute time limit.  For more information:, YouTube and Facebook groups.


  • The resourceful librarian knows where and how to get prizes.  We have confidence in your professional Jedi begging abilities.  The Force is strong in you, young Padowan.

On the big day, take a deep breath and enjoy the Geekdom you’ve created.  Don’t panic and don’t be shy to let your geek flag fly!


Photo courtesy: Elise VanCise
Photo courtesy: Elise VanCise

Today’s guest blogger is Jonathan Dolce. Jonathan currently works for Lake County Library System, and has been working in Central Florida libraries since 2000.  He took two years out to be a mountaintop farmer in Puerto Rico, then returned to Central Florida libraries. He is now happily the Branch Supervisor at Astor County Library and having a great time.  Jonathan just returned from a five-workshop tour of Central Florida aiding fellow librarians in implementing the 2016 summer reading program.

Please note that as a guest post, the views expressed here do not represent the official position of ALA or ALSC.

If you’d like to write a guest post for the ALSC Blog, please contact Mary Voors, ALSC Blog manager, at


  1. The Library Lady

    It’s really sad to see a librarian who uses words without knowing their meaning.

    Con is NOT a “shorter, geekier word for conference,” it is short for CONVENTION.
    Science fiction ones have run for many, many years. I attended many Star Trek conventions in NYC back in the late 70s when the word “geek” was firmly a pejorative firm, as was “nerd.” And they date back long, long before hipsters decided they were cool:

  2. Jonathan Dolce

    Thank you for your insights – I appreciate it. I would like to take this opportunity to invite you to educate more of us by contributing to the ALSC blog post. Share your wisdom with the world!

    I reviewed the link you posted. I hope you take the opportunity to contribute edits to Wikipedia, too. It is a great medium, espc with the Wikipedia Foundation and their Wikipedia Zero efforts. It sounds like you have the insights and decades of experience needed to make it happen!

  3. Jonathan Dolce

    Actually, I think we may both be right:

    noun: convention; plural noun: conventions
    Definition of “convention”:

    a large meeting or conference, especially of members of a political party or a particular profession.
    “a convention of retail merchants”
    synonyms: conference, meeting, congress, assembly, gathering, summit, convocation, synod,conclave
    “the party’s biennial convention”

    synonyms: conference, meeting, congress, assembly, gathering, summit, convocation, synod, conclave

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