By Hannah Hacker
Last month on August 17-21, two of our very own, Peter Balestrieri and Laura Hampton, went to represent the University of Iowa Libraries at the 74th World Science Fiction Convention, Mid AmeriCon II, in Kansas City, Missouri.
Some may wonder what a couple of Special Collections librarians were doing at a Science Fiction convention. Well, they weren’t just there to recline on the Iron Throne. In fact, this will be the University of Iowa Special Collection’s second consecutive year at World Con, promoting the UI Libraries, the Hevelin Collection, the Hevelin Digitization Project, and other science fiction holdings here at the library.
Balestrieri and Hampton had a UI Libraries fan table, decorated and branded with the University logo and colors, at the entrance to the dealer’s room full of fan groups, art displays, interactive activities, an enormous astronaut, and, of course, dealers.
There, they chatted with attendees, gave away over 500 free branded flying saucer stress toys (see below), pencils, and badge ribbons, as well as handouts on the Special Collections science fiction holdings and projects. They got attendees to sign up to volunteer as transcribers for the Hevelin Digitization Project, collected hundreds of emails, and spoke to passersby about the UI Special Collection’s current ventures. “We were met with overwhelming praise and support for our efforts,” Balestrieri said. Special Collections may even be receiving new donations from some prominent fans and figures in science fiction and fandom in the future.
However, their time at the World Con wasn’t all work and no play. Hampton was able to attend the exclusive George R.R. Martin Alfie Awards celebration. Check out some pictures and read more about this event on the Hevelin Tumblr. Some of the photos feature George R.R. Martin himself!
“I see our attendance at the convention as a genuine success,” Balestrieri said, “not only because of the contacts made and the donations that resulted or were promised, but in the greater sense of establishing UI Libraries and Special Collections as one of the recognized leaders in this collection area and a trusted and respected friend to science fiction and the preservation of its history.”