Monday, August 26, 2013

The ToshoCON Report

Welcome to ToshoCON!

Last Saturday was , Salt Lake County Library's anime convention for teens.This was the first year we held this convention and it gave me a lot of insight about running a con, as opposed to simply attending one.It also gave me a chance to talk to the kids that I see off and on, being a substitute librarian, and actually getting to know some of them beyond the limited interaction that I get with them in my day job.

Now, I have a pretty baseline knowledge of anime, but I haven't been into it all that much in recent years.I have my favorite animes from childhood (Sailor Moon, InuYasha, Fruits Basket, Fushigi Yugi - okay, those are more from my college years, but I'm so far removed from college that it might as well be from my childhood), but I don't really know what's new and cool today.So when stuff like Hetalia and Black Butler and Homestuck showed up at ToshoCON - well... I just went along with it all (and I FINALLY found out what those flower crowns on Tumblr were from. Turns out they aren't from anything. Just hipsters making crap up.At least, according to the one teen source I consulted with at the con).

Paper cranes at the ToshoCON photo booth

I was helping staff the convention, so I didn't get to see all the panels and what-have-you, so this won't be too much about that kind of stuff.But I can talk about some behind-the-scenes goings-on and the kids I got to meet.

I did get a few pictures of the cosplay the kids had, but there were some issues with adults taking pictures of the kids at the con, so I'm a little leery about posting those.and they have a decent-enough gallery, so you can get a good idea of what was featured. I did cosplay a little bit as the 10th Doctor - I didn't do too much because the staff was still supposed to look professional - which I did (and it was a zillion degrees inside and I was roasting enough as it was, so left the suit coat in the car).But I had my sonic screwdriver handy so people could get what I was supposed to be. I did get some pictures of my own cosplay and I have zero qualms about posting those -

A dressed-down version of my Tenth Doctor cosplay.

At the - Davie's a Library Assistant for the system as well as a member of RMM and he had the great idea of doing a Harry Potter/Doctor Who crossover pic and this was the result.

By the end of the con, I had turned into Raggedy Doctor and was ready to regenerate.

First of all - we got some fantastic vendors! For a first-time, non-profit, library-run anime convention, we got some great local businesses to come run our Anime Marketplace. was there promoting their convention in October and taking registration.has always been a great supporter of anything our library system does.Plus, there were some local artists and crafters selling things they've made.

A shot of the Anime Marketplace from the hallway

The first part of the morning, I was in the gaming room where ran a Yu-Gi-Oh! tournament.It was sort of slow there because the gamers all knew what they were doing and they really didn't need so much supervision.I ended up wandering out to the amphitheater where we had the Manga Swap.There, I met Sydney and Paul - two of our fantastic youth volunteers and it turned out they were fellow Whovians!

Me with Sydney and Paul at the Manga Swap after we had to move it inside.

We spent some time geeking out over Doctor Who in general (Sydney got this really goofy grin on her face when I said my favorite Doctor was Peter Davison) and talking about how excited we were for Peter Capaldi and theorizing about what would be coming up in the 50th Anniversary.The geekier our conversations got, the more Whovians we attracted to our discussion!This also led to finding out who was on Tumblr and that spread out into geeking out over Sherlock and Marvel Comics and various other things (there were a couple of girls who dressed up as Sherlock Holmes and John Watson - and even acted the part too!)

Speaking of the Manga Swap - we did have to fight the elements a bit - there were plenty of storm clouds coming in and they were blowing the tablecloths and manga around.Then it started to rain and we all had to scramble to get the manga in the building (there was room in the gaming area, so we just relocated the Manga Swap in there.The gamers didn't mind - they were all deeply into their tournament).

The Manga Swap before the wind and rain rolled in - but plenty of dark clouds hovering over us.

The main part of my day was the craft room.Early on in the planning stages, I ended up in charge of the crafts and we decided to make plushies, origami and soot sprites.

Don't ask me to make that Pikachu again because it was a beast.

Turned out that the crafts were a bigger hit than I anticipated because even when the dance was going on - the kids still wanted to come make plushies! The other librarian I was working with had to do a last-minute run for more felt because we ran out! The craft room was actually supposed to be closed down at 8:00, but there were so many kids still making things that it stayed open until it was time to close down the con.

It was funny for me - this convention was primarily for teens and designed with teens in mind.So, the majority of people at the con were so much younger than me.But every time I got to talking to these kids about our common interests, it didn't feel like there was that big of an age gap between us.I don't know what that says about my sense of professionalism and being a super-dignified librarian and take my adult responsibilities seriously - but I rather enjoyed it.Honestly, these kinds of programs are what I love best about being a youth services librarian.When I'm slogging through a busy day at the reference desk and patrons are mad about not getting their computer reservations or their holds not coming in or their fines or whatever the Angry Library Gods have decided is going to be the Problem of the Week - I think of these kids and how much fun they have and that I get the chance to work with them.

Anime Art Contest entries

A peek in at the dance. There were tons more people out in the lobby and hallway.

This was the lobby crowd after the con was supposed to be over. Sort of wished I didn't have to break it up.

This is why I love the teens - while I do feel a responsibility to enforce the rules and things like that, I feel like I can connect to them on their level.I'd rather treat teens like they're adults - so long as they show that they are deserving of that distinction.And I'm not above squeeing over the latest Tumblr trend or whatever we feels like getting excited about.Because it's fun.And the library isn't just about rules and fines and limits - it's about having fun in a good, safe, positive environment.So many of these kids don't have that - and even the ones that do, they need a place where they can cut loose and have fun once in a while.That's my goal in my career and that's what I loved the most about ToshoCON.Even when it was 10:00 and we were shutting things down and the Homestuck cosplayers were still out in the lobby dancing to someone's iPod - I really hated to tell them that they needed to pack it in and go home (didn't stop me from actually doing it - but it wasn't my most favorite thing of the day).

We're hoping to make this an annual thing and I hope the Powers That Be at library administration are sufficiently impressed by this first go-round that we get to do it again.
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