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The Coeur D'Alene Public Library gives young people a sense of community through events like Coeur d'Con 

click to enlarge Angela Flock, right, says Coeur d'Con is one way the Coeur d'Alene Public Library reaches new audiences. - QUINN WELSCH PHOTO
  • Quinn Welsch photo
  • Angela Flock, right, says Coeur d'Con is one way the Coeur d'Alene Public Library reaches new audiences.

Whether we admit it or not, we're all a little dorky in our own ways. Perhaps you've spent countless hours reading the Harry Potter series. Maybe you can recite half of the lines from Jaws. It's possible you've gotten your buds together for a good ol' game of Dungeons & Dragons. Regardless of how your nerdiness reveals itself, there's a place for you at Coeur d'Con, Coeur d'Alene's home-grown comic convention.

The fourth annual event is a geek-tastic celebration of comics, movies, games, manga (Japanese comic art), books and more put on by the Coeur d'Alene Public Library. It features events that are associated with classic conventions, including lectures, contests and workshops.

Instead of usual library-goers perusing books, the building will be filled with Coeur d'Con participants, many disguised as characters from their favorite movies or comics, immaculately dressed for the cosplay (costume play) contest. Special guests like Tom Cook, one of the animators behind He-Man and Scooby Doo, will be in attendance to give a talk on his life as a cartoonist.

Cook went from bus driver to animator in 1978. Hanna-Barbera hired him to sketch characters like Fred Flinstone, The Smurfs and many more. Since retiring, he spends much of his free time traveling to different comic cons around the world, where he walks people through the process of creating a cartoon.

"[I go] step by step how a cartoon was made back in the good ol' days, when we used to use this very rare item called a pencil. It's like this piece of wood with lead in the middle."

Cook says many have no clue cartoons were hand-drawn, and in a show one second involves 12 separate drawings. He wishes there were events like Coeur d'Con when he was a kid so he could have met the artists behind his favorite shows.

"The number one thing I hear, is 'Hey, you drew my entire childhood.' That's really nice to hear," Cook says. "For me, it was a job, but it was a pretty cool job. I certainly never thought that 35 years after He-Man I would be flying all over the country and meeting people."

There are several other events and contests going on throughout the day. Young padawans can try their hand at a lightsaber during the Jedi training academy, gamers can battle it out during gaming tournaments and concerned survivalists can learn how to endure a Bigfoot attack.

The library is continually testing avenues to encourage young people to get involved, and in 2014, library staff decided to try something totally new. The idea for Coeur d'Con spawned from a comic book-themed summer reading event. They knew right away that the con was a hit, says Angela Flock, the young adult coordinator.

"It was a unanimous response. It was, 'You're gonna do this again next year, and every year pretty much, right? For the rest of your life, right?'" Flock laughs.

When the idea was originally conceived, Flock and other staff members expected the participants to consist mostly of young kids, as most library events tend to draw a very young crowd. They were surprised to find that year after year, the audience of Coeur d'Con was overwhelmingly made up of teens and young adults. Last year they had nearly 1,400 participants.

Flock says as a teen, she always saw herself as the "geeky reader girl." She hopes library events like comic con can reach young people who feel similarly and give them a place where they can thrive.

"I guess I'm trying to help teens that see themselves like on the outside looking in, whether that's the gamers who are sitting at home all the time, gaming from their house, or reading a book under their covers with a flashlight," Flock says. "I'm trying to reach those kids that feel like they're on the outside, that perhaps don't feel like they have a tribe."

There are a variety of events the library puts during the year to attract young audiences, some are more successful than others. Of course, it offers the classic summer reading program, but there are many more. It hosts a gaming group that plays League of Legends, a popular multiplayer-battle game, which has been running weekly for three years. It also hosts movie nights and even has a teen book club, which Flock says is very low-key.

"You didn't have to read a certain book, you just came and you talked about what you were reading. It ended up almost becoming kinda like, what you were reading, what you were watching, all the stories they wanted to tell, basically," she says.

But the act of reaching teens can be tough. Flock says that word of mouth is the best way to get young people to library events, but she also uses social media and hopes to do more school outreach as fall comes around.

"In the fall I'm hoping to get out the schools and just let them know, 'Hey, there's a library in town that cares about you.'" ♦

Coeur d'Con • Sat, Aug. 18 from 10am-4pm • Free • All ages • Coeur d'Alene Public Library • 702 E Front Ave., Coeur d'Alene • coeurdcon.weebly.com

The original print version of this article was headlined "Con Job"

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