Cosplay Prom!!!

Cosplay Prom is a standing tradition in our library. Every year the teen department hosts a Geeky prom where teens can dress up and dance the night away. This year was my first year planning the program and kids let me tell you I can’t wait to do it again!

At first I was a little bit nervous about hosting this event. Partially because it draws around 50-70 teens. In one room.. in costume… dancing. So, cue a tiny bit of Teen Librarian panic. Would they all get along? What songs should I play that are not lame and totally give away my age? Would other patrons complain about the noise? Did they all have rides? And finally… OMG do I have enough food? Needless to say my worries were mostly unfounded. I ended up with 88 kids who had a wonderful time geeking out over fandoms and dancing.

While this was one of the biggest events I have planned for teens it was one of the easiest. I think the hardest part was figuring out what songs to play. I asked my fellow librarians and also posted a question to the Facebook group: Teen Services Underground. If you are not a part of that group yet then sign up! They are a fantastic wealth of information and help. Here is my take on the nights events and a small list of the songs that were crazy popular for those looking for danceable tunes.

Cosplay Prom: AKA the most fun you can have with 88 teens!


My awesome volunteer dressed as Ariel. I am Thor.

If you have a big room and access to a media player or projector you should try this program. We have a large auditorium at our library that holds about 150 people. It has a big screen at the front that comes down for media use. I set up my laptop with a playlist on Spotify and planned to just play a mix of what I had and what they would request. I also had snacks (chips and cookies), lots of water, and some down time activities like coloring sheets and other simple crafty stuff they could do.

We advertised that they could wear costumes and that there would be a costume contest at the end. Teens had to register in advance so we knew how much food to get and so they could request songs. I had two fabulous volunteers that kept the music rolling and a set time when they had to be picked up.

The costume contest was very simple. They had to parade in front of the judges table and announce who they were and do a little skit. Bonus points were added for creativity and staying in character the whole time. I found some cheesy plastic trophies at our local party store and gave away candy bars to the winners.

This could easily be modified for a smaller department or room by having registration and just playing songs from a playlist on your computer or other device. As long as the music is loud and can be danced too they tend to stay happy. The hardest part of this program was figuring out what they would want to hear. Just when I think I know what is popular it changes and I am back to being the lame-o library lady with bad musical tastes. Ask your fellow librarians and don’t be afraid to get online and hunt around. My volunteers saved the day with their mad musical Youtube DJ skills. Seriously I wish I could share them with other teen librarians. These gals are my favorite peeps to work with!


The room set up.


What worked: 

At the beginning I set my expectations for the night. Keep in mind that I am 5 foot 4 inches and wearing a Thor costume. I stood on a chair and announced the rules to much laughter:

  • No free ranging the library and scaring little kids and old people.
  • Please don’t leave the building without letting us know where you will be.
  • Cosplay does not mean consent! So keep your hands to yourself and no groping other people! (yes I did say no groping) If someone says no to pictures, hugs, or anything else walk away.
  • Thor wants you to have fun, be safe, and request all the songs you like as long as they are appropriate!
  • Judges will be walking around chatting with you before the judging begins. Bonus points for staying in character!

They all behaved despite the sheer amount of teens on the dance floor. I did have one little 11 year old that was warned to keep his hands to himself or Thor would call his parents in the middle of the dance floor.


They danced.. oh boy did they dance! There were conga lines, some kinda anime thing with lots of arm waving, and synchronized ballet from the superheros. It was hilarious. We ended up ditching the playlist and taking requests for Youtube videos. My volunteers spent time queuing everything up and making sure the lyrics were appropriate. They loved the Geeky remix videos the best. I have made a short list of the faves below to help you out.


The costume contest was quite possibly the best thing ever! The skits .. oh kids.. I have never laughed so hard at a teen program. There was this adorable teen in this business like outfit who turned out to be Pepper Potts and she rocked it. Another favorite was our Ghostbuster girl who made her entire outfit and had a proton pack!

What I would change: 

Next time I will have an age range instead of a grade range. This was a teen event and we advertised for Grades 6-12. So we ended up with kids going into 6th grade showing up. 11 years old was a bit on the young side for a mixed age dance. We have discussed doing 12-18 or 13-18 in the future. I have a Harry Potter Yule Ball in January that I am going to try my age range on before we do Cosplay Prom again.

NO CHIPS!!!! Bad bad bad idea. They were everywhere and super salty, which required more water. Plus greasy fingers and costumes do not mix. Ick…

NO BALLOONS.. just no.

Using a microphone for the judging contest. It was really hard to hear some of the kids and the room set up was odd for the costume parade. I am not quite sure how to sort this one out in the future with the space. I would also like to bring in other librarians as judges. It was so hard not to be biased with some of the kids because all of them looked so cool!

The Doctor Who version of the Time Warp bombed so hard it got booed. Which is funny because apparently they loved it last year. You have been warned..

What you can use: 

Playlist time! Here are some videos that my teens loved. Keep in mind that they may or may not be popular with your group. Be prepared with a back up if they start booing! My teens really wanted Fall out boy which have some lyrics that are kinda not all age friendly. The only one that we could use was “Dance Dance.”

Videos: These were the top 3 videos at our party.

Talk Nerdy to me: (seriously watch this because it is so funny)

Dark Lord Funk: Yeah this is so well done

Spinnin’ Round that Base- For the Pokemon fans!


Here is my Spotify link that you can use if you have an account:
If you don’t have an account be sure to add these songs to your playlist:

  • Doctor Who Theme
  • Caramelldansen- Caramell (This was the arm flappy song)
  • Happy- Pharrell Williams
  • Gangnum Style (um yeah… they created a huge conga line for this one)
  • Queen anything! Seriously.. they love Queen
  • Staying Alive- Bee Gees
  • Come and Get your love (From Guardians of the Galaxy)
  • Thriller- Michael Jackson
  • Naruto Theme song or a remix
  • Super Mario Brothers Remix
  • Sherlock BBC Theme song
  • Avengers Theme Song
  • James Bond (Newer version)
  • Radioactive
  • FairyTale Theme song (anime)
  • Cha Cha Slide
  • Sailor Moon Theme
  • Attack on Titan
  • Time Warp
  • Old School Batman theme
  • Hooked on a Feeling (Guardians of the Galaxy)
  • Full Metal Jacket Theme Song
  • Ignite Sword Art Online
  • Pretty much any remixed version of a popular Anime song

Advertisement Ideas:


Final thoughts: 

Okay.. I hope that you have been inspired to try this at your library. It’s lots of fun and a great way to let your teens geek out. Mine request this every single year and we are trying to do a winter version now because of the popularity. It can be done on a shoe string budget because really.. they just want to dance and hang out with their friends. The only $$ I spent was on cheesy trophies, candy bars, and snacks. As always you are welcome to steal my ideas and send me messages with questions. I am happy to help!


The making of LibraryCon- Part 1

Once upon a time (last year), my super geeky boss Sarah and I decided to host a Comic Con. We thought that the summer of 2015 would be perfect because the theme was all things Superhero. We half joked in the break room about how cool it would be to have a con that took up all of the rooms in the library and brought together the geeks of Springfield. About halfway into our discussion we realized that we just might be able to pull this off. Seriously, she is a really cool boss! And thus.. in the wee afternoon hours of fall planning long ago, a super event to eclipse all events was born. It was named LibraryCon! This is our journey..


Planning big and facing the realities of staffing, space, and budgets: 

Our branch loves to create big programs and we often have events with 100+ attendees. While we wanted the Con to be huge, we had to be realistic with our ideas. The Con would happen during our Summer Reading program which could be both good and bad. Good: Because it fit with the Superhero theme. Bad: Because of staffing and the potential to draw anywhere from 100-1000 people. We had just learned a valuable lesson in staffing after a Pete the Cat program unexpectedly drew in around 600 people.

We decided to put a call out for volunteers several months in advance and send out reminders the closer we got to the big day. We needed room monitors, greeters, book sale attendees, and floaters that would help with breaks. Our goal was to have a good support system for each other, our attendees, and our special guests.

Next came the space. Our fabulous branch manager helped us choose a date and reserve all of the rooms in the library that we could possibly need. Our large auditorium would be used for our geeky panels and screenings. Two of our meeting rooms (with a movable wall) would house the illustrators and authors. The large hallway would be filled with the rest of our geeky guests. The Storytime Room would host the fandom storytime and geeky crafts for kids. Finally, we had a “greenroom” for guests that needed to change into costume that also doubled as our lunchroom.

We mapped out our space and created spreadsheets with guest info, table requests, and locations. This way we would have everything ready to go when people arrived to set up. Then we left the list at the front door with our greeters so they could direct traffic and answer any questions about location and space.

Our Greeter Table- Photo by William Atchison

Our Greeter Table- Photo by William Atchison

Finally, the budget…  July is the end of our fiscal year so we knew that we had to work with basically nothing. From the very start we planned on only spending money on snacks, and mileage for on our our out of town guests. Everything else would have to be donated or used from our regular supplies. Sarah and I wanted  to try and feed our panelists since they were doing the most work and also provide snacks and bottled water for our other special guests. The Community Relations department was able to score us some delicious burritos from Chipotle for free. My husband and I donated water and cookies. We have a cafe at our branch so guests also had that as an option.

To sum up our spending.. we did this pretty much on a Ramen Noodle Budget!


View of the Concourse with our favorite Star Wars guest!


Another view of the main hall.


Our Panel room- Hoping to have a better sign next year!

Finding the Geeks and spreading some nerdy love:

The best part of planning LibraryCon was the realization that we all know some really geeky people. Several of us met of the course of a few months to talk about who we knew in the community. Our goal was to stay within the Southwest Missouri area and focus on local talent. Yeah, we could have blown our tiny budget on one mega geek, but why do that when there is already such a cool group of geeks in the Springfield area?

Sarah and I made a list of everyone we personally knew that might be interested and then sent out an email to all the library staff to see who they knew. I also decided to scout out one of our local cons (VisionCon) to see if I could find some more illustrators, local authors, and cosplay groups. My husband and I met some great geeks that were really excited to join us for LibraryCon. We also talked up our future event at Free Comic book day at the Comic Cave. I was able to find some really cool illustrators to be on one of our panels and have tables at the event. I also met a local Podcast group called Fanatics and the Fan who wanted to come and do live cast at our event!

Between our scouting adventures, emails to staff, and word getting around, we were able to come up with a great list of local geeks to attend our event and all for free! With this list we decided to have several panels and screenings over the two day event. The first night would feature a local group who has an award winning webseries called: Drifter. The second day we set up three panels: How to Cosplay, Meet the Illustrators, and meet the Authors. As our final event we would screen “Midwest in Panels” a documentary about Comic books stores in the Midwest.

The rest of the list consisted of groups in the community that specialize in all things nerd. They were set up in the main hall of the library to show off their geeky talents and offerings to the community. We had a wide range of tables from Cosplay groups, Gaming and Larping groups, to other fan conventions spreading the word about their upcoming events. There was something for everyone to enjoy.

All of our flyers and web publicity was done in house by our Community Relations group. Once the flyers got out word spread really quick! We had several of our guests create Facebook event pages for us, pass out flyers, and event do webcasts. It was awesome!


Sarah and I on the big day!

The waiting game. AKA- Anxiety and sleepless nights full of Christmas Eve like excitement: 

As we waited for the big day we made sure to keep in contact with our guests, double check our to-do lists, and try to hold in the excitement. You know things are going to be awesome when your husband tells you that it’s like waiting for Christmas. I honestly tossed and turned the night before because I was so excited. This was the biggest thing I have ever been a part of in my library career and I could not wait for the big day.

Stay tuned for LibraryCon Part 2

Also, check out GreenBeanTeenQueen for her take on our event.



How to make your child hate reading..

Summer reading is in full swing at public libraries across the country. Our library is mostly filled with eager readers and happy parents. However, there are a few sad, frustrated, and embarrassed children that would rather the floor open up and swallow them than be at the library. Why?? Because of their parents.

Most parents are supportive and wonderful with their children. Then there are some that just don’t get it. Or my personal favorite (cue epic sarcasm) the extra pushy jerk parents. I get that sometimes it is very frustrating to get your child to read. Kids can be stubborn. Why read when there are 10,000 other things that are bright, shiny, and distracting?! Maybe they struggle with comprehension or haven’t found anything interesting. Maybe the parents struggle with reading and don’t know how to help a reluctant child. There are lots of reasons that kids give up on reading. That being said, one of them shouldn’t be you.

Here are some tips that are guaranteed to make your children hate books and reading.

1. Compare them to a sibling“Who is the best reader in the whole world?”


Being compared to someone who seems to excel at everything and happens to be related to you just plain sucks. Think about it. How do you feel when you are compared to someone who is fitter, makes more money, has a better car/house/job, etc… No one likes feeling like they will never measure up, especially kids. You might think that you are encouraging them but trust me you are not. If anything they want to run for the hills.

Instead of telling me how your son or daughter “sucks at reading” or how you can’t understand how one kid is a perfect reader and above their reading level yet, you have a child that is so far behind that it’s embarrassing; try telling me something they are good at. It’s okay to tell me about your child that excels. Just don’t forget the one that struggles. Tell me what they are good at besides reading. Sometimes that can help me find something they might like.

One boy hated reading but loved sports and video games. We found some books in the Non-fiction section with baseball tips and player facts. He also picked up a book about his favorite video game. His Mother was very supportive and encouraged him to get whatever he wanted. I almost gave her a gold star sticker for being awesome.

2. Talk for your child when I am asking them what they like to read or interrupt them when they are telling me

Want to turn your child into an instant clam? Talk over them or for them. I have watched so many kids go into forced clam mode when this happens. Yes, you know what your child likes or you think that you do. Yes,  I get that you’re excited to tell me that they read such and such book and found it amazing. For the love of little readers everywhere, STOP IT! Let your kiddo answer me first.

Sometimes kids are shy around other adults. I totally understand that phenomenon because I used to be that kid. Sure my mouth would never stop going at home. Get me out in public and I hid behind legs or stared at the floor. Sometimes I am still intimidated by adults. However, my job is to make your little one feel welcome and safe. I know what questions to ask and I am pretty good at getting the shy ones to talk. I also know when to back off and let them look for a while.

Let your librarian talk to your child and let your child answer. I had a Dad that followed me all over the library while I was talking to his daughter. She would start to answer and he would interrupt her. You could see the frustration on her face. His phone rang and when he went to answer it she chatted up a storm. I helped her find some books and when Dad came back she had an armful and a very smug expression on her face.

Another parent came in and tried the same tactic with her teenage son. I rarely do this, but I ended up just ignoring her and making eye contact with him until he answered. She finally got the hint and backed up a bit. He found a few books and she apologized for interrupting. She was just so excited that he actually wanted to read something for a change.

3. Tell your child that what they like to read is stupid- 

No.. just no… Yeah, I don’t really like Junie B. Jones either and Captain Underpants is not on my top 10 list. Still, I would never ever tell a kid that what they love is crap or stupid. (Yes, I have heard both) Just like I don’t judge you for indulging in the latest trashy romance or tell you that reading only Cosmo is stupid and will rot your brain.

Parents it is okay for kids to read something cheesy or silly every now and then. Especially during the summer months. They have been at school all year working really hard. The end of the year is nothing but test after test. Kids need a brain break. Heck, I need a brain break now and then. Let them read something fun. They are still reading. Yeah, Sponge Bob is not a literary classic and Garfield will never win the Pulitzer Prize. They have plenty of time to read the classics. Letting them read for fun just enhances the whole experience.

So many people (librarians included) think that kids need to only read classics or high level literature. Yes, this is important because it gives readers lots of new skills like decoding and comprehension. But they have their whole life to read those kinds of books. Reading can be fun too. If you force a kid to only read what you deem worthy you are taking away their freedom of choice. Kids need to have options. They need to know that they can try something new. Let reading be fun for a change. They might be more willing to pick up something harder in the future.

Let me add that in no way am I suggesting that home rules don’t apply. I understand that families might have certain things that they don’t allow in their homes because of personal or religious preferences. Give me that guideline and I can search for something fun that falls within those perimeters.  There are billions of books, comic books, and magazines out there. We can find something that almost everyone can be happy with.

4. Make your kids finish a book even if they hate it- 

Guess what? Librarians sometimes put down books that they don’t like. There are dozens of books that I have never finished. Most of the time it is because I just didn’t like the story or it didn’t keep my attention. If I don’t care about the characters then why continue? There are so many other books out there waiting to be read. I am not going to waste my time on stuff that in my opinion sucks.

Your child doesn’t have to finish every single book they pick up. Yes, they do have assigned reading for school and they have to finish it even if they hate it. (curse you “Wuthering Heights”) However, this is summer. If they hate it they can return it and get something else. The library is free people, and full of all kinds of books for all kinds of readers. There is something for everyone in our stacks.

Want to help your child enjoy reading? Try some encouragement and understanding. Belittling, shaming, forcing, and comparing make small readers and big readers want to give up. The best thing that you can do is support your child. One Mom told her kids the following when they came into the library:

Pick whatever you want! Lets find something fun that we can all read together this summer. Yes, even a comic book! Let’s get a bit crazy!