No hush, big rush as comics conquer usually laid-back library
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By Shawn Candela
Sometimes even a library needs to make some noise.
And what better way to do that than to invite a lot of kids — from the very little to the adult-size — to a free comic book bash?
That’s what happened Saturday at the Jerseyville Public Library, which was (nearly) overrun with not only Spider-Man, Superman, Batman, and other famous crime-fighters, but a wide assortment of comic book characters.
The turnout was Gotham-sized, with events like a Smash Bros. tournament, cosplay, face-painting, cookie decorating, and more going on all around the usually hush-filled surroundings.
“It was great,” Beth Smilack, the library’s social media/marketing specialist, said. “We gave away a lot of comics.”
Smilack came up with the idea of hosting the “Free Comic Book Day Fest” thanks in part to her little boy.
“My son has always been a big fan of free comic book day at comic book shops,” Smilack said. “And I thought it would be great to have one at the library.”
The library’s full house on Saturday came about in conjunction with an annual comic book giveaway that typically takes place in May but was postponed because of the pandemic. During the event, comic book shops across the country give away an enormous pile of the much-loved items.
Libraries must compete to take part in the giveaway, and while Jerseyville didn’t make the cut last year, Smilack made sure this year would be different.
Not only did she get the library on the giveaway list, she also arranged for some additional local comic book donations, just in case.
It turned out to be a smart move.
Originally, the library planned to give away 50 comic books that were donated, but when the signup sheet kept getting longer, Smilack knew she had the opposite worry.
“Luckily, I talked with Heroic Adventures (comic books) in Edwardsville, and they were so generous,” she said. “They gave us 150 comics, so we knew we’d have enough for everybody.”
About 100 comic book fans showed up for this year’s event — which, if you’ve stepped into the tight space that is the library, is quite the crowd. But Smilack said once the library moves into its new digs — tentatively expected to happen next fall — an annual comic book event would be a huge draw in a much more open space.
“Next May might be tough,” she said. “But The year after, we are thinking it could be a big blowout.”
Smilack said ultimately, it was wonderful to see a crowd making noise in a place known for its silence.
“We haven’t had that many people in the library in a long time,” she said.