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NOVEL Con 2 Coming to Bellefonte! 6 Questions for Centre County Library's Lisa Shaffer and Laura Sarge


Centre County Library and Historical Museum - 200 N. Allegheny Street Bellefonte , Pennsylvania 16823



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By Serge Bielanko

Most people around here know that the Centre County Library and Historical Museum is one heckuva resource. We've almost all been down to 200 N. Allegheny Street at one time or another to check out a book or two. Heck, on a rainy day we might even take the kids down there to play with the toys and read them some stories. The library is a safe haven for intellect, curiosity, and information. And for rainy day blues, too. But what many folks don't often realize is that our library is so much more than just a 'library' in the antiquated sense of the word.

Because Centre County Library has a lot more than books to offer up these days. There are a bunch of very cool clubs that meet there. There is an extraordinary museum of local history tucked away in the back. And there are countless ways for moms and dads, grandparents, anyone really, to introduce young people to a world of imagination that doesn't necessarily require a screen in front of their face.

And so it is that NOVEL Con was born. On Saturday May 5th, 2018, from 10am-3pm, everyone is welcome to come on in to the library to celebrate the 2nd Annual NOVEL Con, a day designed to highlight all the different activities and services that the library offers. Books are a huge part, of course, but they're just the beginning.

So in preparation for the big day, I reached out to the two people who know ALL about it. Lisa Shaffer, Library Assistant, and Laura Sarge, Youth Programming and Outreach Librarian, are both responsible for dreaming up NOVEL Con… and for making it work.

I asked them some questions via email and they worked together on their responses, which I think says a lot about their unified approach to the work they're doing in making our library a 21st century one.

NOVEL Con is coming to Bellefonte. Here's what you need to know.

––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––– By now you've probably become a downright expert explaining what Novel Con is to people who have no idea. Can you explain it one more time… for us?

Lisa/Laura: NOVEL Con is a comic con style event that happens at the public library; in fact NOVEL stands for New Opportunities to Value and Explore your Library. The event is meant to build awareness of library service to patrons who may not have thought to visit the library to support their interest. The library is so much more than a building full of books: we offer clubs for all ages such as a knitting club, chess club, two book clubs, Pokémon club, and a film discussion group alongside other services and materials like brand new movies and TV series, and even unique items like ukuleles are available to check out---all you need is a free library card!
The public library is a community space and we want to highlight our services while also bringing people together here in Bellefonte. We offer the event on Free Comic Book Day so that we can partner with Jakes Cards and Games to offer the free comic books at our event. Much like a traditional con, we have local artists, authors and vendors selling and promoting their work. We also look to host local clubs and organizations to help promote activities in the community—The Alliance for Heroic Hearts will be there as well as State College Area Roller Derby (SCAR); attendees can learn more about how they can get involved, or how they can support, these clubs.

BC: Last year's event was the first one. How did it go? What have you changed for Novel Con 2?

LL: We weren’t quite sure what to expect last year, but it ended up being quite successful with almost 400 people through our doors and visiting the community that day. We wanted to reach people who maybe have never been to the library before so we counted on our community partners to help us get the word out—Hot Topic in the Nittany Mall was a huge help in advertising and has continued to be a strong partner for us.

This year we wanted to expand the event into the community a bit more. We want people to not only enjoy our library, but to also explore Bellefonte, so we have partnered with Dam Donuts and Cool Beans to offer a raffle ticket towards the event if NOVEL Con themed items are purchased from those businesses. We also partner with Jakes Cards and Games and are offering raffle tickets with any purchase there. Local stores are helping by hanging our flyers in their windows, and Pizza Mia as well as Little Mama’s are putting advertisements on their pizza boxes. We want to see this event grow into the community even more each year. We also moved away from offering workshops so that we could make our Cosplay Contest a little bigger and also so that we could offer a Skype Session with award winning graphic novel author Victoria Jamieson! We will still have our local artists, authors and vendors (with a few new ones this year!) as well as some new activities for children, some great raffle and event prizes and our Trivia Contests will be happening throughout the day using the Kahoot! app.

BC: Cosplay is such a big part of so many cultural tribal gatherings these days, and it's a key part of Novel Con, too. Why do you think that fans of anime/ books/ films/ TV/ games like to dress up like their favorite characters? Do you feel like cosplay helps young people feel more connected to art and culture?

LL: There is a sense of freedom, confidence, and community that comes with dressing up as a beloved character. When a person embodies a respected character it’s more than playing dress up, it’s taking on a persona and projecting that personality. Young people do connect more with art and culture as they take the time to engage with their interests through fandom, as well as connecting with other fans.

Cosplaying itself is a culture of fans and artists who work to make sure little details are correct on their costume out of respect for the character. Cosplayers also combine their fandoms by putting cross-fandom twists on their favorite characters—perhaps you love Iron Man but you also love Steampunk…so maybe you’ll create a Steampunk Iron Man! Whatever it is that you choose to dress as, you are choosing to represent and showcase your interests in an artistic way.

BC: A live Skype session with young adult writer/illustrator Victoria Jamieson, (Roller Girl, All's Faire in Middle School) will be part of the festivities this year. It's not every day kids have access to an author. Will they be able to ask her questions directly?

LL: We are so excited for our Skype session with Victoria Jamieson! Her graphic novels are beautiful and powerful and relatable for kids and adults alike. This is mostly a Q and A session after she talks about her creating process, so participants should get their questions ready for her!

BC: Anything else we should know about Novel Con this year?

EM: We want to hear from the community, we want to know what you want to see at this event for the future and at the library in general—how can we help to support you and your interests? Email us at

NOVEL Con is Saturday, May 5th, 10am-3pm, at the Centre County Library and Historical Museum, 200 N. Allegheny Street, Bellefonte.

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