Thursday, July 29, 2010

ALA vs. Comic-Con

Last week, my husband Tim and I spent two days in San Diego, attending Comic-Con, the largest pop-culture convention in the world. We spent one day cruising the enormous exhibit hall and another day seeing programs. It was exhausting but exhilarating.

With the American Library Association (ALA) Midwinter meeting coming to San Diego next January, I thought it might be fun to see how ALA conference stacks-up to Comic-Con. Get your scorecards ready!

Preliminary program

ALA: Schedules are released at least six months prior to the summer conference, so you can actually plan your itinerary well before paying for registration.

Comic-Con: You’re lucky if the schedule is made available two weeks in advance. But don’t wait last minute to buy tickets—this year, Comic-Con sold-out six months ahead of opening day.

ALA: 1, Comic-Con: 0

Registration

ALA: Registration opens six months before the annual conference and four months before Midwinter. Summer registration can cost well north of $200 and some events, like pre-conference workshops and meal programs, cost extra.

Comic-Con: I paid $100 for a 4-day pass to this year’s Comic-Con. This included everything: preview night, exhibits, programs, art show, etc. My husband, who turned 60 last year, paid only $50 for senior rate. Registration begins a year in advance and remains open until the show sells out.

ALA: 0, Comic-Con: 1

Hotels

ALA: ALA provides hotel registration at the same time conference registration opens. Conference room rates are slightly cheaper than regular room rates, but the selection is much more limited. There’s no guarantee you’ll get the hotel you really want, but if you don’t send in your choices (up to six!) immediately, you may not get any hotel at all.

Comic-Con: Comic-Con provides hotel registration several months in advance. Convention room rates are slightly cheaper than regular room rates, but the selection is much more limited. The entire city of San Diego sells-out during Comic-Con, so I reserve my room a year in advance.

ALA: 0, Comic-Con: 0

Venues

ALA: Conference meetings and programs are usually held in surrounding hotel ballrooms as well as the convention center. For most cities, this means traveling from venue to venue via taxi or shuttle. With an average 20,000-25,000 attendees and some 2400 programs, annual conference can be very difficult to navigate.

Comic-Con: For the past several years, the entire Con has been held in the San Diego convention center. This year, a handful of events were also held in the neighboring Marriott hotel. Traveling from room to room is done by foot, though shuttles do transport attendees from and to their hotels. With attendance usually topping 130,000, the convention center is impossible to navigate. Comic-Con organizers need to equitably restrict attendance through some sort of ticket lottery, etc., or seriously consider moving to a larger venue (Los Angeles anyone?).

ALA: 0, Comic-Con: 0

Speakers

ALA: In recent years, ALA has played host to numerous luminaries, including Amy Sedaris, John Grisham, Toni Morrison, Salman Rushdie, and, oh yeah, Senator Barack Obama, who went on to become . . . well, you know.

Comic-Con: This year alone, Comic-Con featured the following celebrities promoting their latest projects: Will Ferrell, Angelina Jolie, Samuel L. Jackson, Robert Downey, Jr., Seth Rogen, Joss Whedon, J.J. Abrams, and the cast of True Blood, to name just a few.

ALA: 1, Comic-Con: 1

Exhibits

ALA: One of the highlights of conference every year is the enormous exhibit hall, where everything from books to high-end library technology is displayed. Wear your comfortable shoes, because it takes hours to walk through the exhibits. Even my husband, who is not a librarian, loves ALA’s exhibits.

Comic-Con: A big part of the Con is the enormous exhibit area, where everyone from Hallmark Cards (new Star Trek Christmas ornaments!) to Dark Horse comics to Lucas Films is hawking new products. It’s noisy and way too crowded (where’s the fire marshal when you need one?), but there’s always the chance you’ll run into Jon Favreau or William Shatner signing autographs or standing atop an exhibit booth, promoting his latest project. Wear your comfortable shoes and bring lots of patience, because it takes hours to walk through the exhibits. My husband, who is not a fan of science fiction/fantasy/comicbooks or crowds, hates the exhibits. [By the way, San Diego Public Library had a booth at the Con this year, so score one for the home team.]

ALA: 1, Comic-Con: 1

Programs

ALA: Conference is so huge that many of the programs you want to attend will be scheduled at the same time. Sneaking from one program to another is usually difficult because of the distance between venues. Still, the speakers tend to be topnotch and the information shared is always inspiring and educational.

Comic-Con: The Con is so huge that all good panels are scheduled against each other (e.g., True Blood vs. The Green Hornet). Sneaking between programs is impossible because the lines are just too damn long. Still, if you manage to get into your favorite programs, you are often treated to wonderfully unexpected surprises—for instance, Barenaked Ladies showing up to sing the theme song from The Big Bang Theory or Harrison Ford making his very first Comic-Con appearance. Priceless!

ALA: 1, Comic-Con: 1

Waiting on line

ALA: Most lines at ALA are for either book-signings, shuttles or onsite registration. Everyone is polite and patient.

Comic-Con: With over 130,000 people attending Comic-Con, you have to wait on line for everything: food, bathrooms, shuttles, autographs, and especially the panels featuring megawatt celebrities. Angelina Jolie’s fans camped out overnight to see the Salt panel Thursday morning. I got on line at 7:30AM, Friday morning, to see a panel at noon. Most Con-goers never see the inside of the highly coveted Hall H, where blockbuster movies are promoted, or Ballroom 20, where the most popular TV shows are discussed. Although they can be fun—misery does love company—Comic-Con lines have become far too prolific.

ALA: 1, Comic-Con: 0

Bags

ALA: Librarians LOVE free book-bags and so ALA learned a long time ago to give one to every paying conference-goer. The bags are just big enough to carry the conference schedule and any other brochures, etc., you might pickup in the exhibits area.

Comic-Con: Fanboys and girls also love free bags and so this year every paying Con-goer was handed a gigantic bag advertising either a movie or TV show. Big enough to hide a small child, the bags are a good place to carry the mountain of vendor brochures distributed in the exhibit hall and on the street outside the convention center.

ALA: 0, Comic-Con: 1

SWAG (Stuff-We-All-Get)

ALA: The exhibit area is a veritable emporium of free books, pencils, book-bags (one can never have enough!), candy, posters, keychains, letter-openers, and all manner of tchotchkes that librarians absolutely adore. Thank heavens ALA provides a post office inside the exhibit hall or else many attendees wouldn't be allowed to fly home for all the “stuff” they’ve collected at conference.

Comic-Con: There are lots of “collectibles” to buy, but very few freebies at Comic-Con. If you’re lucky, you’ll receive a "fulfillment" ticket, which must then be redeemed at the “fulfillment center” in a remote part of the Marriott hotel. Your gift: either a t-shirt emblazoned with a TV show logo or a copy of a paperback novelization.

ALA: 1, Comic-Con: 0

Attendees

ALA: My husband always insists he can spot library conference-goers the minute we get off the plane. Librarians do, after all, tend to wear sensible clothes and look like they know where they’re going (because they do!). As much as we disavow the stereotype, most of us are obviously librarians.

Comic-Con: Fanboys and girls are just as obvious to spot, even if they’re not wearing costumes. A t-shirt that says “NERD” or “Beam Me Up, Scotty,” is as big a giveaway as a Princess Leia harem outfit or homemade Cylon suit. Unlike librarians, Con-goers wholeheartedly embrace their stereotype.

ALA: 0, Comic-Con: 1

FINAL SCORE: ALA 6, Comic-Con 6

Over the years, I’ve attended as many Comic-Cons as I have ALA conferences and I completely love both! Where else can I feel so comfortably surrounded by kindred spirits?

May the library profession live long and prosper!






Ballroom 20

1 comment:

alf said...

You are too cute.