*Only some of the pictures I took at this event are in this post. For the complete set of pictures, click here.
Well, the Animazement Con went above and beyond my wildest expectations. Many times, I have this vision in my head of what something will be like. My Myers Briggs type is idealist. So often I am let down by the reality. In this case, though, it went even better than I imagined. The enthusiasm people demonstrated about the library setting up a booth was very touching. They seemed excited that we had come onto their turf.
Michelle and I went to set up our table at around 4 pm. The convention officially starts at 1 pm, so there were many folks there when we arrived. There were no places to park so I dropped Michelle and all our junk at the door while I found a place to park. This was my first time ever being at this convention, so I had no idea what to expect or where to go.
I found a parking spot at a building across the street from the hotel and walked over. Registration was in a white tent, and the lines were small. We picked up our cards while one of the teens from Michelle's library watched our stuff. We had a LOT of stuff. After checking in, we loaded up both our tow dolly carts, but there still weren't enough hands. I was very pleased that a stranger chose to help us carry stuff in. I was already feeling warm fuzzies for the convention folk.
Next we walked through the halls trying to figure out where Artist Alley was. We found the place to check in, but the gentleman at the table wasn't sure which table we were supposed to use. The person in charge was unavailable by cell. Finally someone came that knew where the floor map was. We found our table. It was in a great spot, at a break in the hall. Right behind us was a water station. We were also right next to a set of doors. So they gave us a great table where lots of traffic came through.
We had just enough room for everything. We had a trifold with upcoming library events on it, a black tray for holding the 300 library-branded Ninja stars a co-worker made in advance (those were a stroke of genius!), a large 3-tiered acrylic for flyers, slips for our hourly drawing and pens, two acrylic cubes to put manga comics in, a couple of gothic sock puppets, and a stuffed kitty. Underneath the table, we had a small cooler for the Ramune drinks were were giving away as prizes and a large crate with the rest of the prizes (manga comics in a nice bag). Oh yeah, we also had a white board on an easel and a sign that advertised our hourly drawing.
As soon as we set up, people started stopping at our booth. It was cool because they would say, "What is this booth about?" They weren't shy at all. I told them were just promoting that libraries had manga they can check out for free. Most of them said, "Cool!" Then we would ask them if they wanted to enter the free drawing. Of course they did. Their favorite thing at the table was the Ninja stars. They LOOOOOVED those! They also were excited about winning free Ramune. I think what gave us an edge is that were near the dealers room so when people walked by that area, they were expecting to have to spend money. When we told them our drawing and our giveaways were free, they were very surprised.
Here are some favorite moments from the booth:
- Having a young man stop by that said he used the library a lot but he didn't check out our manga because we didn't have the series he wanted to read. I asked him what series it was. He said, "It's called Blame." I looked at our bookmark which named all our series, and Blame was on there!
- A young woman came up and read our sign. "Free Ramune." (pause) "FREE RAMUNE!"
- Another girl came up and looked at our bookmark. She said, "This is what I've been waiting for my whole life." That's what the librarians like to hear.
- Hearing the winners of our hourly drawing so excited because they had never won anything before.
- Meeting a research librarian who was doing a project on public libraries and manga. She was very excited that were were there. She gave us some bookmarks the teens could take. It offered $25 prizes for filling out the survey.
- My friends Phil and his friends Scott and Dewee were hanging out a the booth while we tried to clean up. Some people came by to look at our booth while I was distracted. She asked what we were advertising. Phil, after hearing my speech so many times, started promoting the libraries to her. He said, "Do you know the Wake County Libraries have manga?" He was a perfect salesman.
Just some last minute observations:
The energy in the room was palpable. This crowd was so excited about being there. There were people dressed up. Everywhere I looked, you could see photo shoots, musical acts, dancing, friends reuniting. There were people of all ages, although we were there to focus on teens. This crowd was creating their own content. The costumes were awesome, but it was more than that. They were having an experience, and this is why people keep coming back to this con every year. At one point, I stopped in the lobby because a large group was in a big circle poking each other with their fingers over and over again. They were having a blast. I don't know what it meant but I wanted to know. There was a big sense of community there. What else could a crowd like this accomplish?