Host an Anime CON at Your Library

If you know teens, you know they are into anime. There are numerous ways to utilize the teen’s love of anime into library programming: host an anime club, participate in Free Comic Book Day, art contests, and more. But what if you want to go even bigger? How about putting on a library anime CON (convention)?

Libraries around the country have done this. Tuscon Public Library puts on Manga Mania. Austin Public Library does YomiCON. Chesapeake Public Library does ShobouCON, and there are more. Other libraries partner with existing CONs to promote library services or do outreach at local CONs.

Seeing the love of anime in teens and the hard work other libraries had done, I and the hardworking ToshoCON committee decided to do the same in our library system, Salt Lake County Library.

On Saturday, August 17, the Salt Lake County Library put on ToshoCON. This was an eight-hour event that went from 2–10 p.m. Teens participated in panels, card gaming, crafts, anime art and cosplay contest, a manga swap, viewing room, and a dance to end the night. In addition, teens could buy all sorts of anime-related goodies and games from the vendor marketplace or food trucks at the event. more than 1,100 teens attended the event and flooded the Viridian Center, nearly outgrowing the venue on our first year and promising an even bigger ToshoCON 2014.

ToshoCON wouldn’t have happened without the teens. I consider myself very knowledgeable about anime and manga, but I confess that the average teen probably knows more than me! Their expertise was essential. ToshoCON had three teen-run panels where the teens did all the preparation, planning, and cosplay. Those ended up were our most well-attended panels at the event.

Teens also sold their wares in our vendor marketplace. We charged other businesses a small fee, but teens could sell for free. We had one teen sell a self-published graphic novel, another one sold art, and another sold jewelry. They were very excited for the opportunity, and it taught them some business skills. The vendor marketplace was a new thing for us, but one staff member, Susan Jeppesen, was up to the challenge and managed to fill the whole room with vendors on a first-time, untested event. The vendors also brought their own audience to the event, boosting attendance even more.

I feel much of the sucess of ToshoCON was due to the closed ToshoCON Facebook group. More than two hundred teens participated, suggesting ideas, voting on panels, giving advice to staff, and promoting it to their friends. Maintaining the Facebook group took a lot of time, but it made the teens feel ownership of the event and participate more.

Doing such a large event is outside the realm of possibility for many libraries. I am fortunate to work for the Salt Lake County Library, which is the largest library system in Utah and serves population of more than 500,000 with nineteen branches. To do a large-scale anime convention you must have the staff and space, but a small-scale “mini CON” can be very effective too. Even just having a lock-in at your branch can get your teens excited.

Consider these ideas for a mini CON:

  • Have an AMV (anime music video) contest where you showcase all the music videos at an event with snacks, cosplay, and more.
  • Many colleges and schools have anime clubs; partner with their CON by hosting it at your branch, doing a library-themed panel, or participate in the planning process.
  • Have a cosplay contest with staff or others there to teach your patrons how to make their own.
  • You don’t have to have an anime-theme for a convention. It could be superheroes, Star Wars, Star Trek, or anything geek-related.

There are lots of possibilities to promote anime in the library. Doing a CON is just one idea, but it’s one that’s paid off for our patrons and staff.

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