Thomas: Hi, welcome to Circulating Ideas. This is Thomas Maluck…
Kristin: And this is Kristin LaLonde.
Thomas: And we’re here on behalf of the Secret Stacks substituting on the show and we’re going to be interviewing…
Marissa: Hi, I’m Marissa Lieberman!
Thomas: And she hails from No Flying No Tights, VOYA, School Library Journal, and Comics, Cosplaying, and Geek Culture in Libraries, that’s all of her published and online presences, because she has been the committee chairperson and director for Tosho-con for public libraries, an anime and pop culture convention, and has led a lot of anime and manga programs at her library and we’d like to talk to her today. It’s a pleasure to have you, Marissa!
Marissa: Thank you, I’m so excited to be here with all of you.
Kristin: What library are you from?
Marissa: I currently work at the East Orange Public Library in New Jersey. I have been there for about two and a half years and I relocated from the Nassau County Long Island New York region where I worked at four different libraries part-time before coming to New Jersey to work as a full time children’s librarian.
Kristin: That’s awesome.
Thomas: Can you please explain what a Tosho-con is?
Marissa: The first question I always get about Tosho-con is what is it and what does the name come from? So Tosho-con is a play on words from the Japanese word for library – “toshokan” – and the way that I spell it is T-O-S-H-O-C-O-N. It’s a full day anime and comic convention held at my library. It just took place on Saturday, June 20th of this year. We had over 400 people, all ages, diverse backgrounds, ethnicities from all over the tristate area attend. We had about 14 different passive and active programs planned by myself along with the Tosho-con committee, which was filled with four other wonderful dedicated staff members from all different departments.
Kristin: 14 programs? Holy Cow.
Marissa: Yes it is a lot of work. Very well attended. Some of the programs included a Doctor Who meet up and a Comics 101 program both run by our adult services librarian. We had special guests including Michele Knotz and you may know of her as Jessie from Pokemon, which was really cool. She ran a panel called “Not Your Everyday Panel” where after talking a little bit about her work, she invited the kids and teens and adults to go up and show off their talents and she gave out prizes. We had a Samurai Sword Soul performance, which was really cool, two people came, they did sword fighting and then they actually invited everyone from the audience and had a bunch of fake swords and taught them how to do moves. Our other special guests included panelists from the Women in Comics Collective. A coworker had seen them at New York Comic Con and invited them to speak about diversity in comics. Along with that we had a cosplay contest. We had a paper cosplay contest, kind of like Project Runway style. We had artists and vendors, we had crafts for children, we had screenings. We had the 501st Legion Vader’s Fist, which are really wonderful. They’re Star Wars cosplayers and they come for free to nonprofit events and it was just a lot of fun. And I’m so excited to be doing, to be planning it again for next year.
Kristin: With an event that size, do you get the whole library staff involved or do you recruit volunteers or… how do you staff such a huge program?
Marissa: It’s a really good question and we learned a lot about staffing from this past convention. So the committee was all there. Everybody was really on board. One of the things we always recommend to librarians and library staff who are looking to create their own convention is to really get the enthusiasm up to kind of bring the whole library together. So everyone’s a part of the marketing and volunteering as well. We did find that we were kind of stuck longer in programs that we thought we would just check in with, so for next year we got approved to have more staff come in and get comp time to help out. I also brought my family with me and my husband to help out as well as other coworkers brought their family and friends to volunteer for the day.
Kristin: Yeah, that’s really awesome. When we do our Free Comic Book Day event, it’s our biggest, one of our biggest events as well. And we ended up recruiting people in from the branches. I got people from my D&D group to come and volunteer. Because we had the 501st is… There’s a Great Lakes Garrison and they come to our thing as well. But I don’t know if it’s the same for when you guys had them, but they required kind of a body guard or at least someone to stand there with them so that when people take pictures basically so that people don’t try to hit them with lightsabers or anything like that…
Marissa: Oh, no, they actually came out to our summer reading kickoff last year where the kids made their own lightsabers out of pool noodles, they were whacking each other. Nobody whacked the Star Wars cosplayers, but that’s a good point.
Kristin: I guess that’s a thing cause they’re like, oh yeah, the costumes are pretty expensive. So, but people try to like fight them and hit them and everything. So they’re like, well, whenever we go to like one of these things we need somebody kind of like just volunteer to kind of control the crowd a little bit.
Marissa: Yeah, it’s always good to have staff just watching the crowd. We had people greet our special guests. Whenever one walked in we created registration bags like you would get at a regular New York Comic Con, San Diego Comic-Con. We created our own badges that everyone had and volunteers, special guest artists had a little ribbon that you see at library conferences that said “staff” or “artists.” They got a raffle ticket. They got a free comic book. We partnered with a local comic book shop as well as Diamond comic distributors who sent us 500 comics, which was really cool. So everyone got something that was free.
Kristin: I think it’s really cool that you got Diamond distributors to donate comics. Did you ask them or was the comic book store kind of the one, the intermediary between you and Diamond, or did you have like direct contact with them?
Marissa: I had went to another library convention and I had spoken to one of the staff members who I believe he either worked for Diamond or was involved in the comic industry and he gave me a contact person to email and she emailed me right away, was so wonderful. She gave us even more comics for Free Comic Book Day before and was really willing to send stuff to partner with us. We also emailed Viz Media, which is great for anime stuff. They sent us these wonderful drawstring bags that I see the kids in my library are still wearing and they even sent us a whole box of manga to help supplement our collection. So it’s always great, you never know who’s going to send you free stuff. And especially these large distributors, corporations, they have the ability to give out donations as well as of course your local comic book shops.
Kristin: Absolutely. That’s, you know, it doesn’t hurt to ask, basically. Like, you know, they could say no and then most of the time that’s the worst that could happen. People are surprised at what you can get or what people are willing to donate, especially to the library usually, you know, refer to it as, we’ve got the library discount, because people like the library so much, they’re willing to do this kind of stuff for us cause they know where, you know, goodwill ambassadors.
Marissa: Definitely. I found that out with the special guests as well. Another person we had was an Emmy-nominated special effects makeup artist. My coworker had found him when searching for a prospective Halloween programs and she saw on his IMDB that he liked working with schools. So she took a chance, emailed him and said, you know, this is our budget. You know, we’d love to work with you. This is all we can do. And he was so willing. The kids loved him. He did scar makeup and cut makeup on the teens. It was awesome. So you just never know and people are really willing to come out, work with the libraries. A lot of them understand the kind of budget that we’re working with. It’s not the same as the schools and they’re just very willing and I’ve had such a positive experience with all the special guests, industry professionals that I’ve worked with so far.
Kristin: Yeah, it was actually the most recent episode, episode four of Thomas and I’s comics and libraries podcast, Secret Stacks, Thomas mentioned there’s a list out there that the Comics Legal Defense Fund puts out of creators and artists and writers who are willing to do speaking at schools and libraries and things like that. And that’s a really great resource.
Marissa: Definitely. I saw that on one of the library listservs I follow. And it’s a great resource if you’re not sure where to start, check out something like that. Look at what other conventions in your area, who they’re having. And you can always partner with other libraries, you know, if you come to my event and then you come to their events. I know a lot of the schools do that. So it’s such a great resource to have.
Kristin: Oh yeah, absolutely. And you couldn’t help kind of spread the travel costs around if someone’s coming to your area is, you know, might be best for them, where if they can hit two or three places in the area at once, you can get the costs spread around a little bit.
Marissa: Definitely, and I was telling Thomas earlier, we had our paper cosplay contest and I first heard about that idea after reading an article he had posted on No Flying No Tights about a new convention ValhallaCon that he attended in South Carolina. And I was really interested to learn more about it. So I just sent a blind email to the, just a general email they have. And I heard back from the person who was responsible for organizing it and it turned out that she worked for the airline and was willing to come out for free to help run the program. Unfortunately something last minute came up, but she provided us with a lot of resources and the program was amazing, so you never know. People might be willing to come out for free or they might have family or friends or other events that they’re attending. So like Kristin said, it never hurts to try.
Thomas: Speaking of cost effective, how about that paper cosplay?
Marissa: It was really cool. We collected old clothes from people, so we had fabric scraps in addition to rolls of colored paper, which we purchased and duct taped. We split the group into teams of four. We had a really good mix of tweens, teens and adults. Everybody was interested in it. We had at least 30 people and we gave them and then was about an hour. My coworker ran the program and they were really creative. They could create any costume they wanted. They picked a model from their team, Project Runway style, like I had said earlier, and the winning team, each of them got a book about cosplay. So that was really cool. We tried to incorporate a lot of manga graphic novel prizes throughout the day, of course, to encourage literacy and reading. One of the things that I love about library conventions are that they’re free for the public. Conventions can be really expensive. You have the tickets, you have traveling, not to mention the fact that you’re probably going to buy a lot of stuff when you get there. You’re also spending a lot of time waiting to get into panels to meet special guests who sometimes charge for autographs. So library conventions provide all of that for free. You can plan them in any size library on any scale. And one of my favorite aspects of library conventions is that you can actually get your tween and teen patrons involved in planning and running the convention. So even if they can attend the larger conventions, they’re not usually involved. And with library conventions they could take up unique leadership roles. I’m a children’s librarian, so I formed a tween Tosho-con committee. I have pointed to co-chairs and some co-co-chairs as we came up with, who kind of manned, coming up with local places to eat. They made signs and they ran their own table where they sold and displayed their artwork. They helped with our registration table. They helpe,d show our special guests around the library and they really took pride because I kind of instilled upon them that we’re getting people from all over coming to your town, to your city, in your library, and they really got to show off their community, their knowledge and love for comics and anime and it’s just really fun to work with them and they’re really excited to help me plan for next year’s convention.
Thomas: Speaking of getting people from all over, how would you describe the reaction of the crowds Tosho-con got, whether they would… ’cause every convention’s someone’s first convention, but then a lot of conventions might be someone’s 20th convention.
Marissa: Yeah, there was a big mix. A lot of the kids and teens in my community had not been to a convention before and two girls, they’re sisters, they were just overwhelmed. They loved looking at all the cosplays. Every time I saw them and checked in with them, they were like, “Oh look how cute she looks. Look at that cool costume!” And a lot of parents came over to us and told us how excited they were that we had something like this in the community, because their kids were always talking about anime and comics. They had no clue what they were talking about, begging to go to the larger conventions, and the parents didn’t or couldn’t take them, and they feel comfortable enough dropping them off at the library to experience it and a lot of them actually stayed with their kids, which is sometimes unusual, for the parents to really stay for programs. So that was really cool. We had people who even said that they’ve been to conventions all over. It was a meetup group in the area and they said they had so much fun at our convention. They didn’t know what to expect. They thought it would be only little kids and they were surprised with how many adults that we had and just a really diverse group of people coming together to share their love of anime and comics.
Thomas: When you put the convention together, you planned it out. You mentioned a Doctor Who meet up.
Thomas: One could identify as a subculture in pop culture fandom. How do you select what subcultures you want to assemble to give a program or a panel?
Marissa: That’s a really good question. It’s definitely one of the hardest things I think about planning a convention. The good thing is that if it’s an annual event, you could kind of see what events are well attended. I asked on our Facebook page, you know, what would you like to see next year? What would have you liked to see next year? I have a coworker who is really interested in Doctor Who and she had planned a Doctor Who party and marathon on New Year’s Day. So we knew that was something that we wanted to include because we knew that we had a fan base already with teens and adults. We really wanted to have diverse programming catering to our community, catering to the different fandoms. But again, it is hard to choose and especially the first time when you don’t know what’s gonna work, what’s not gonna work, and we wanted to have a good balance of anime programming, comics, we had a drawing workshop which we knew we wanted to include, so depending on your space, your budget, your time, it’s a lot to consider. I think every program we did was really well attended. We recently had a post-convention meeting and we saw based on our registration statistics that we had a lot more adults than children. So it was brought up that maybe we should have more adult targeted programming. People had asked about video games. So I’m looking into different options of that, including video games since they were kind of neglected this time around. So there are so many options, and just working again with your teens, your adults, asking them what they want and then, you know, doing what you think is best and if you’re able to do what again the following year, just asking for feedback.
Kristin: Did you see any Night Vale cosplay? I know that’s very popular with teenagers.
Marissa: I didn’t. My husband loves that podcast. I have yet to listen to it. But there may have been, there were a lot of cosplayers. It was, it was really cool.
Kristin: So there’s a anime convention in Detroit. It was happening at the same time as the Michigan Library Association Convention. And if you know anything about downtown Detroit, there’s a kind of a monorail loop that goes around, it just goes in a loop between a bunch of buildings. And the MLA was in Cobo Hall and the anime convention was at the Renaissance Center, which were like three stops away from each other. So all the librarians and all of the anime cosplayers were sharing the monorail at the same time. And I saw a ton of Night Vale cosplay and it was really exciting because I didn’t know if there was like some kind of a venn diagram crossover between people who love anime, people that love Night Vale or not.
Marissa: There could be!
Kristin: Maybe it’s just a coincidence.Everyone loves all of the things.
Marissa: It’s great to see people of different fandoms come together. I know sometimes, you know, people are passionate, fans are passionate, things can get a little heated, but for the most part, just recognizing that passion in someone else and having it all come together, seeing that passion and energy at a convention and then being able to do that in your library is such a rewarding experience.
Thomas: I’ve heard of libraries that have done Night Vale listening parties.
Marissa: Oh Wow.
Thomas: Since podcasts are, they’re very limited as commercial entities that playing a podcast in a library, there’s very little red tape involved.
Kristin: Hint Hint.
Marissa: Hear this, any library.
Kristin: Yeah. I love the teenagers and they do a lot of, I’ve seen on Tumblr where they do kind of mashup cosplays where they’ll mix a bunch of different things together, like different shows or they’ll do a lot of like gender swapped characters or they’ll, reenact their OTP pairings, things like that. And what I really liked what you said about your convention where you said you got the tweens and teens to show off their own artwork. It’s just, there’s so much creativity involved.
Kristin: You get them involved.
Thomas: Let’s talk about OTP because so many young audiences, it’s easy to think, “Oh, these teens or tweens are into such and such series. So they must watch it. That’s when they engage with it. And then when they’re done watching, it’s over.” But the OTP represents a subculture within a series. I’ll let you explain it, Marissa.
Marissa: So OTP refers to “one true pairing” that is shipping as the term is, one character in a relationship with another character. And it doesn’t have to be canon, meaning it doesn’t have to be what’s actually going on in the show. It’s part of the whole fandom aspect. So people are shipping characters, they’re writing fan fiction stories about them, drawing fan art, creating these fantasies, these really elaborate stories that may or may not exist. And it’s such a fascinating, fascinating subculture.
Kristin: I read somewhere because people talk about shipping now. And I think maybe it’s just because people see it a lot on Tumblr and everything, but, and so people think it’s kind of a new phenomenon. But I read somewhere that the term shipping became popular during the X-Files, during the 90s, because they’re like, oh, the people who were really into the relationship between Mulder and Scully, or at least kind of had the idea that there’s a romantic relationship. They were called shippers, like, that’s where it kind of the term came from. So people who grew up watching the X-Files, you know, they’re older now, and they’ve grown up with shipping. It’s not just kind of a new thing.
Thomas: I’ve got to pull the experience card from my film professor who grew up with Star Trek.
Marissa: Yes, that’s what I was going to say!
Thomas: That’s where slash came from with all the Kirk / Spock slashers.
Kristin: Let me tell you a story. The antique store in town, in my town, it’s one of those where a bunch of people kind of have little areas in the antique store and they sell their own stuff kind of on commission or whatever. One person had all of this fan fiction, slash fiction from the 1970s, bound additions. They’re selling them and I’m like, I’m buying all of these. They had like original art and it was like, this is amazing because you don’t… now I guess you know, you see it a lot on the Internet, fanfiction.net or wherever or Archive of our Own. It’s pretty easy to get ahold of fan fiction, slash fiction, but back in the 70s you could only get the stuff if you buy it at a convention. Somebody took the time and energy and money to get this stuff bound together and sell it at a convention. I’m like, oh, this is amazing. It was awesome.
Marissa: Fan fiction is really interesting. I spent a lot of my adolescence writing and reading fan fiction and it helped me connect with the characters, say in a story in a world and connect with characters that, you know, inspired me that I was passionate about. Even in high school, you know, sometimes you have to read books that you don’t love to read and when that happened I would go home and I would search on fanfiction.net to see if I could find the fan fiction for it, or even write my own. I really liked writing poetry from the perspective of characters. I did it for a Shakespeare book that I couldn’t get into. I started writing just, you know, no one really read it, but it helped me connect with the story and stay focused to do well on whatever homework assignment I had to do. So it’s just such a diverse, diverse world. You know, there’s stuff that isn’t really well-written and it’s criticized for that, but there’s amazing, amazingly written work out there by people who are, you know, creating their own storylines, creating their own characterizations and also people who were staying really true to the author’s original vision. So it’s really wonderful. If anyone out there hasn’t had a chance to read fanfiction, I definitely suggest trolling around on fanfiction.net it’s grown so much since I was a teenager.
Kristin: I read something somewhere as well when they were talking about fan fiction like, oh, it’s a really great way for people to possibly insert more diverse characters or diverse storylines that aren’t canon in the show. You’re like, oh, there are no gay characters in the show. There are no African American characters in the show. So what would happen if this happened or this character was introduced? How would, so they recreate or make these stories to see themselves in the story and you know, so there’s a lot, there’s a lot to fan fiction and getting involved in the show
Thomas: It turns what some may criticize as a consumptive culture and makes it more productive and creative and collaborative in many ways.
Marissa: That’s definitely a good way of putting it.
Kristin: So who is your OTP?
Marissa: Nowadays? I mostly kind of consume manga, anime shows in a way that I just kind of go through them. I don’t have an OTP anymore, but I did have some back in the day. I was really into the Yu-Gi-Oh! fandom. I shipped Yugi and Yami, which is essentially the same character. All of them. I loved Gohan and Videl, which is a canon couple from Dragon Ball Z as well as Goten and Trunks, which was not canon. Well, anything I could ship. I was, you know, reading and writing fanfiction for it was, it was a lot of fun.
Thomas: You opened up a can of worms here calling out OTPs. What’s your OTP?
Kristin: My OTP is Destiel, or Dean and Castiel, from Supernatural of course. Yes. Not this year, but the previous year we did a group cosplay at C2E2 in Chicago where it was myself, my friend Val Forrestal who is in New Jersey. And my other friend, Sarah Strahl, who is a librarian in the Chicagoland area, and I cosplayed as Castiel and Val cosplayed as Dean, and then Sarah cosplayed as Sam from the show and we all did group cosplay. But Val and I did a lot of pictures together so we can reenact our… ’cause we both share this OTP of course. So yes. Destiel All the way. What about you, Thomas?
Thomas: I don’t want to go into obvious territory, but I’m sure everyone who read the Harry Potter novels would agree that Neville and Luna are the most perfect couple in the series.
Kristin: I would agree.
Thomas: I would say Ryoga and Yukio from Ranma 1/2, they’re both kind of wandering characters who I think would support each other very much if only they knew of each other. Well, I have a couple of questions for you, Marissa, from an outside source.
Marissa: Andrea from Teen Services Underground, an excellent resource by the way. She asks, we have two questions. First, what do you use to find out about new Manga? Says Baker and Taylor? Not so great. Brodart used to have awesome list.
Marissa: That’s a good question. I review manga for places like No Flying No Tights, which I think is a really great resource for manga and graphic novels. A lot of just different Google online sources. Talking to my teens, talking to my kids, looking to add publisher websites like this, um, are how I usually say on top. Um, I do order a manga from my library, but I’m not the primary person for, um, ordering books in general. So I usually stick to sources online and then, you know, when I get the journal it’s like School Library Journal or for way I go through that as well. Um, but like she had said, you know, Baker and Taylor isn’t always the greatest primary source, but I think just talking to people in your community, looking at various online sources, that’s usually how I keep up to date with new American Mongo releases.
Thomas: I would add as a hopeless geek, I follow there’s in vertical or two of the big and I follow a couple of editors I know who worked for like Kodansha and Eden and they tend to hype up products that they re they on a personal level believe will really speak to audiences and they tend to be right. That’s usually where I get a first look from. I know most catalogers in collection development holds, can’t always be on social media waiting for publishers to tell them. Second question, went off on a tangent there. Second question: Attack on Titan: teen or adult?
Marissa: That’s a really good question. My library has it in teen I would say definitely more older teen and adult. I know even my twins are reading it. I would not show that at my tween anime club. I don’t think I would show it to the teen anime club either, especially if there were kids as young as 13, 14 and 15. I think technically it should be in the adult action. Um, I’ve done a couple of talks by myself and with other librarians in the area about Mongo recommendations and we always put a tack on tight. And then the older teen slash adult section, it’s a very popular series. Um, again, you know, in our library we have sections for children. We have sections for teen and adult for a and graphic novel. People are of course welcome to take whatever they want from wherever they want. We don’t stop them, especially if you’re not what a parent, we might just say, by the way, this is really recommended for adults. Um, but I think putting it in the proper section is important. It’s not always easy. Um, if you have an adult section, I would say put it in adult. If you’re a little wary and the teens who are interested who are already reading it, they’ll be able to find it. That’s my opinion. At least.
Thomas: Have you noticed and this may speak to the, the wide appeal of attack on Titan. If you downgraded the art quality to that of say a five or a six year old, it would be completely in character for that age group nonetheless. Oh, I had a dream where there are these giant people and they were eating all the little people and so everyone built a big wall to keep the big people out. Sometimes they break in any way.
Marissa: Yeah. The universal appeal…
Thomas: a lot of attack on Titan.
Marissa: Yeah, it’s good. You know, people all ages love it. It’s just a matter of where you’re going to put it in your library. I think it’s something that library should definitely own. It’s a hot series. It’s good. Um, again, knowing your community and people who want it will be able to find it. Um, regardless of where you put it. You know, if it’s, if people are allowed to check out and read what they want, I wouldn’t stop them. But again, I think it’s geared more towards older teen and adult.
Thomas: Marissa, I have a question for you on behalf of Secrets Stacks. For each month, Kristen and I like to give our top three picks or recommendations for what we’ve been reading. I’d like to ask you what three series, what three Mungo would you recommend for a library that’s either starting out with a Manga collection or it’s looking to pick up something for each age group, some to just get them started?
Marissa: That’s a great question and I’m really excited to share some of my favorite series with all of you. I’ve done a couple of talks, um, related to this, so I’m going to pick the ones that I usually share because I really highly recommend it both for collections that are just kind of getting started off the ground and for ones that already have a lot in it and I’m going to separate them for um, tween and children’s as well as teen and older teen and adult. So the first one is one of my absolutely favorite series. It’s called cheese sweet home by Konami Cannata. He is an adorable cat and she gets lost from her mother and is taken in by toddler Yohe and his parents, unfortunately yo, he’s parents are not allowed to have a cat and the apartment so they have to hide her. Um, the series follows, she on her many adventures, whether it’s playing with the family or going outside, meeting new friends. He, um, we here we can um, read cheese, uh, thoughts. So of course the humans don’t know what she is saying. It’s a really fun, gentle series. The chapters are short. It’s great for even beginning readers and a good introduction to manga. I like most manga it’s flipped. So it’s red, like a regular American book and it’s actually full color. It’s also been on the New York Times bestseller list and even adults I think would love it because how many of us look at cute cat videos on our Facebook account? So it’s just a really great series. I think there’s about 10 or 12 of them so far. So that’s when I would definitely recommend. The next one is sword art online by Reiki Kawahara this is really hot right now. My teens love it. Sorta online is the story of two of players trapped in a full dive, virtual reality, massively multiplayer online role playing game for two years. The series starts where everyone’s excited about this new game and excitement quickly feeds when the game is creator comes and basically tells them that they’re trapped there. If they take off their helmet, they’re going to die. If they die in the game, they die in real life. The only way to escape is for any character to clear the 100th level of the giant floating castle iron cried. The main character is Koreatown. He’s a solo beat, a player, so he had actually played the game beforehand, which ends up causing some controversy with other players who call him a cheetah, a cheater as well as his partner. Austinite a k the flash. He’s a really strong female who’s as strong as she is, beautiful and they have a great partnership relationship and it, there’s a lot of fighting, their sword fighting and action and there’s also a lot of quiet tender moments, things that you do in a game like buying and selling, leveling up trading. It’s a great series and unlike most series, it started off as a manga, as a comic book and then become an anime. And so what our online was originally a light novel, so that’s an actual novel novel. It’s short only 200 pages and they’re targeted towards young adult readers and a lot of publishers, especially yen press had been translating them into English. So now the sword art online light novel as well as the manga. And of course the NMA are available here in the United States and there are a couple of seasons for that and a couple of books out. The last one which I would recommend to older teens and adults is cooled oozing Maki by June. Z eats. This is psychological horror. Boozoo Maki in Japanese means spiral. And this is about a town that’s cursed with spiral and two kids, a boy and a girl start to real life that something’s up. Something’s weird in their town. People are becoming obsessed with spirals, usually ending in their death in some kind of protest manner. Either they’re transformed into snail, they’re curled onto upon themselves. One woman is so a three to spiral that she actually, when she finds out, um, that’s it too gruesome that there’s a spiral part in her ears. She starts to clot out and even when these people are cremated, it’s a big spiral at big smoking swirl in the sky that comes down into the water and just starts it all over again. This is a really complex story. You’re not going to see the stereotypical, why’d I cute show Joe Style girl art here. This is intentionally grotesque. The artist’s heavily shaded with that crosshatched hat style. It’s just really complex, very literary. There’s only three manga volumes out so far. You can even buy one really nice hardcover that has everything in it gives us to anyone who likes psychological harm. Give this to anyone who likes good storytelling. And for anyone who says that manga is only for kids.
Marissa: Are you familiar with any of them?
Thomas: All three and I wrote, I did a review for No Flying No Tights for sword art online progressive because much like attack on Titan if it manga or anime series becomes successful enough spin offs and side stories abound in all directions and progressive seemed much diminished compared to the main series. But I can definitely echo teams come and we have a weekly anime club and I’m always gonna ask, you know, when are we going to watch sword art online? Why aren’t we like watching sword art online?
Marissa: Oh definitely agree. I love the main storyline, which does have an ending and then they kind of do other storylines. I’m semi, I fell in love with the first one, but it’s still a great series. Great for boys and girls. Plenty of action. Great Artwork.
Thomas: Marissa, you manage a tween anime club? Yes. What are some of the unique opportunities and challenges of building an anime club around that specific age group?
Marissa: This was a new venture for me while working at one of my libraries on long island. I had sturdy the teen anime cloud while still in college and I had the opportunity to work with a lot of older teens who hadn’t come to the library before, mostly 1718 year olds. They were really all about chilling, watching anime. I brought them snacks. They brought their own snacks. It very laid back with the tweens, which is grades four through seven I try to do more interactive stuff, keeping their attention. We do occasionally watch a movie or an episode, but I like to do a lot of different activities with them and these are people who are just starting on their animate journey. One of my favorite things to do with my tweens are anime games shows. They’re so easy to do. You could switch it out, adapted for any age group, any size library. It could be a good last minute program, something new plan. It’s free unless you buy prizes. Of course I’ve done anime jeopardy with them using PowerPoint you could find, you can just Google any kind of odd PowerPoint jeopardy, switch out the questions. So if you click on heroes for a hundred, it comes up with the question, then of course you click and it has the answer. They get really competitive with that. I’ve done anamae minute to win it based on the popular TV show. I make it. Um, anime style. We’ve dine on chopstick races. Um, Kanji Pretzel are a Ninja Star throw all sorts of fun challenges. And a new one that I recently tried out with them is $25,000 pyramid based on the old game show, which of course none of them have ever heard of. I use PowerPoint. They picked I category. So maybe it would be got to catch them all or characters with yellow hair. You would call up two people at a time. One would look at the clues on the computer, the other one would be facing away and try to guess. And they would have to describe what the picture is on the screen and whichever team had the most points win. And um, we do Raffles, they love getting prizes. Sometimes it’s from my own personal collection. If I need to clean out my stuff. I did that for Tosho-con as well. Sometimes I use on my anime club budget for it. Usually everyone get at least some kind of Freebie thing because with the kids they’re still kind of learning the concept that not everybody can win. So I usually bring snacks or something for everyone. Um, in August we have a lot of leftover comics since we were given a generous donation and we’re going to be doing Dayco podge with them as well as old shown and jumps that I have lying around. We’ve done it with boxes. We had these random would inboxes that had been sitting in our craft drawer at the library for a long time. And we did that. We did, I’d take a pause and old salsa jars. And I recently found, we had from a couple of summers ago these really nice stones, like giant rocks. I think they were used originally people were painting animals on them. So I had gone through some of my old drag and boldly magazines to make a sample and doing [inaudible] on the rocks to make, um, a paper. We, I’ve also done candy Sushi with them. Um, all sorts of stuff. So I really try to keep it more engaging than with a lot of the teen animate clubs. I know it’s kind of more laid back and you kind of have them run it with you kind of as a liaison with the kids. It’s kind of a, a very different experience and, and we’ve been learning, I’ve been doing it since I started there. It’s really rewarding to help introduce them to new series, to chat about ones that they watch, like Dragon Ball Z that I grew up with. So, um, I definitely suggested cause the kids are getting into anime younger and younger, I really don’t want to have when, where it’s all, you know, kids and teens because then you can watch things with, you know, older teens that you might not want to watch with the fourth graders. So I think keeping them separate is good, but making sure to include that younger group, whatever it is they’re interested in, I think it’s really worthwhile if you’re alive. Right. Doesn’t have any anamae or among the programming for the children and tweens. Um, I think it’s something that’s worthwhile to look into.
Thomas: Now I want to run a tween anime club. That sounds like, that sounds amazing.
Marissa: You should, partner with the children’s department.
Thomas: Can you describe the wonders and frustrations of your first convention experience that you attended?
Marissa: Oh, that’s a really good question. So my very first convention was back in 2003. I was in 10th grade. It was the big apple and may fest, which does not exist anymore, which was one of the frustrations that first year I attended it and it was, I believe the last year. I’m not 100% sure on that. I was a teenager and I did not go by myself with my friends. Um, I went with my family as well as a friend and her family and I was, so I made my parents come and that we got a hotel and it was in the hotel where the convention took place. It was very overwhelming. There was a lot of people I was not expecting it. I cost played as Videle from Dragon Ball Z. I think it’s probably the only costume that I put together, 100% without buying anything. I remember meeting Veronica Taylor who was the original voice of ash and I remember going up to her and wanting to say something smart and I kind of stuttered, was panicky and basically said, you’re awesome. Got Her autograph and, and walked away and regretted not being able to come up with anything else. Um, I remember it was the first time watching an anime screening with a lot of people in the room when I was growing up. We didn’t really have anime clubs in our libraries. We had Mongo drawing workshops, which for me is someone who couldn’t draw, was frustrating. So being in a room where there was like maybe 50 to a hundred people, we were watching all my goddess, which I’d never seen before. And that experience of sitting with my friend and all those other anime fans and people were kind of talking back to the screen, it was interactive. People had these inside jokes and it was, it felt like a big community. Um, the dealer’s room was very overwhelming. I came with all the cash I had saved up from being a cit, a counselor in training that summer. I was overwhelmed with what to buy. Um, I think at the time there were so many people that you couldn’t just walk into the dealer’s room because of the capacity of the floor. So I remember waiting online, sitting on the floor, looking through the program to try to get in. Um, it was a wonderful experience, um, as my first convention and there was a lot of fun. I was sad that I didn’t get to go back to that one. And now usually the big conventions I go to consist of, um, New York Comic Con and other library conventions in the area. And of course Tosho-con.
Thomas: Excellent. When are your earliest experiences with conventions? It’s one that will be unique to you from now on because it’s no longer around.
Marissa: One of the cool things is, um, Michelle Nazis, the Pokemon voice actress, I believe she was, I don’t know if you could say like discovered, but she had won a contest for voice acting and they were looking for people. And when I met her for the first time before I asked if she could come to my library and another library, I had mentioned this about big apple anime fast and she was like, oh, I was there and all this stuff. And we kind of had a moment about that convention. So it was definitely a, a special convention. Um, and for, you know, conventions are a great experience for some people. It’s the first time that they’re meeting in real life. People who love may, other than that friend who I went to the convention with, most of my anime friends were online. So seeing people come together was really cool and I learned a lot about the animate world from a convention.
Kristin: When you’re planning your own convention, do you have any tips or suggestions for people who might want to do it themselves? Maybe as if they want to do it as big of scale as you or maybe a little smaller. Do you have any, anything that you’ve learned that you really want everyone to know?
Marissa: My biggest thing is be your own advocate. Drama up the enthusiasts and people are not going to get excited. Your staff member, your administration, unless you lead the way, provide information about what it is you’re doing. What is manga? What is anime? What does comics, why is it important? Why does it fit within your library’s mission? Typically, libraries are helping patrons, particularly in their community, finding information and connecting them with resources. Having an anime convention and catering trp trans who are reading graphic novels, reading Manga, and you could tell because you’ll see that the books are worn out, this, the circulation stats are high, people are congregating. It’s just an extension of that service that you’re already providing and that’s really something to think about if you’re going to be suggesting it to administration. How does it fit within your mission? And it really does because it’s stuff we’re already doing, reaching out to local comic book shops, distributors to help cover costs. It doesn’t have to be the whole library. It doesn’t have to cost thousands and thousands of dollars. You could do it on a budget, you can have your team’s help and run programs. Some of the most successful programs I had run at my old convention, we’re free. We had the teens plan a what grinds my gears panel where they talked about what bugged them and fandom that costs no money. And if you have money, you know, looking into who you want to invite, how best to spend it to drum up enthusiasm, working within your community. Community partnerships are really big right now. And conventions are a good excuse to do that. Um, planning takes a while. I usually take about a year. Tosho-con just ended on the 20th. We met a weak leader to discuss what we felt we could have done better, what worked, and we’re going to be already starting to reach out to some of the more popular special guests who sometime his book their schedules and advance. I know some people who can plan a library convention in a couple of months. So that’s really up to you and how you work and what your experiences and I knew a lot of people, they’re really good at program planning. They plan large programs and anime and comics aren’t their thing and you’re still able to do a good job and you can get that insider information from talking to people in your community. I’m going on, you know, social media talking to librarians who were interested, but don’t shy away from it if you feel you weren’t knowledgeable enough. Um, and it’s just a really worthwhile thing. And I would suggest that, you know, if you know that it’s popular in your community, that you have an interest, even if you want to do something small, maybe a two hour program usually. But conventions, you have different programs going on throughout the day. So like the 14 programs we had, we had different rooms that were being used at different times throughout the day. Certain events where all day, like our artists and our craft swa supplies lasted. But you could program it where you have only one at a time. See how that works. Maybe you just want to try drawing workshop and some kind of fandom events and see if it grows from there. You’ll be surprised how much support you get. Even staff members who were a little wary, they didn’t know what to expect. They were nervous about having to work that day. They were so surprised with the people who came you now and if people, the enthusiasm, um, there’s a lot of resources out there. You don’t have to invent the wheel articles, podcasts like this. Um, just everyone really likes to pull resources together, so don’t feel like you have to do everything on your own or you have to start over. So that would be my advice to everyone. I think it’s really worthwhile. And do it on your own scale the way that you feel comfortable and go from there.
Kristin: Excellent advice.
Thomas: I wish to briefly echo what Marissa just said about a grinds, my gears panel, except that I’ve been to a couple of conventions where they’ll have that conversation about the convention itself. Near the end of that weekend, the big convention has taken place so people can show up and the convention organizers, we’ll kind of just sit front and center and they just take all the complaints right on the chin about there wasn’t enough seating at this panel or the speakers were too loud at this screening and it bled through the walls and that way the organizers can take notes for next year.
Marissa: That’s a wonderful idea and we learned a lot from this convention. What worked well, like we got a lot of good feedback that even though there was a lot of people who came, no one felt that they were congregating in a way that felt unsafe, that there was always a really nice traffic flow. At the same time, our artist’s alley, the way we organized it, we had 25 artists and vendors. We thought we had enough room, but people come with all sorts of amazing clothing, racks and stands and it was a little cramped. So we know for next time, um, we’ll either expand to this, the first floor of our library and have a separate area or just reorganize it. So that’s a really good idea of getting feedback or having even a public forum like that is a great way to do it.
Thomas: Well, thank you for all of your advice, all of your recommendations, and all of your stories, Marissa.
Marissa: Thank you for having me here!
Thomas: If people want to get in touch, if they heard something that sounded really cool and we didn’t have the foresight to follow up on it, where can people reach humorous?
Marissa: You can email me Lieberman and there’s a Marissa leaver, men L I e B e r m a n e o p l.org. If you’re interested about Tosho-con, I’m the official name on Facebook for our page is anime Toso con t o s h o Dash c o n at the East Orange Public Library. And I also have a website. It’s monetize m. A N, G. A. T. I, Z e your library.webs.com just something I had been working on since, uh, graduate school. Pretty much what I’m talking about here, I have a blog with different resources, um, a list of special guests in the New York City Tri state area, um, programming tips and things like that. I’m always looking forward to collaborating with other librarians, sharing ideas. So feel free to contact me anytime and I’d love to chat.
Kristin: And you can hear more from Thomas and myself on our podcast other than circulating ideas. We do a comic’s libraries podcast called the secret stacks and we post our show notes and everything on cc, GC libraries. And we also have a website secretstacks.com that has all pertinent information including contact information. If you ever want to check out our podcast or just send us a question to see what we’re all about.
Thomas: And in the first four episodes, you’ll get questions from Steve.
Kristin: Your best friend Steve Thomas.
Thomas: Maybe he’ll be back by the next episode of Circulating Ideas from serving on the front lines with Sgt. Rock without some recordings, radar style.
Kristin: Well, okay, I believe that is all we have for this very special episode of Circulating Ideas.
Thomas: Thanks for tuning in, everybody.