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Library Comic-Cons: The First Steps

My teens have been bugging me for a while to do a library comic-con here. For most of that time, I’ve put them off. It seemed too hard, both in the planning and in getting full library buy in for such a program. The kids even named it. We’re the Lucius Beebe Memorial Library so clearly it should be BeebeCon.

This past fall, I finally sat down and went through all the resources I’d been collecting (links to blogs, flyers from libraries in my state who do them) and went through it, copying and pasting and generally looking for successful things they had in common or things that just really jumped out at me. I compiled information in a google doc and shared it with a couple of my Advisory Board teens, but then stalled again.

In February, I met with a group of local YA librarians from my consortium, the first time we’d done this, and Comic-Cons came up, as the only other library in my system that does one is doing theirs May 4th (May the Fourth, right? Get it, perfect comic-con day) and their teen librarian invited the rest of us to come as her guest to see it happen. I also condensed my messy file into a checklist of the most popular programs I saw cropping up. (shown below). I then had my Advisory Board put a tally next to any they would be interested in seeing.

In a great case of serendipity, we had a full day staff training only a couple weeks later at the beginning of this month and we had a period of time during it to just discuss anything that we’d been dealing with or wanted the staff to know. I gathered my courage (partially because our staff has seen a lot of changeover recently and the staff is, on a whole, much younger and therefore would be more familiar with the comic-con concept) and brought it up. I know the libraries in our general part of the state all seem to do spring cons so I proposed a fall con and got a small committee of coworkers across departments to help me plan it.

Then the biggest helpful step came: our reference staff decided their core theme for next school year’s programming for adults should be “Play/Imagination” because I’d brought up the idea of BeebeCon.

I met yesterday with two people from Reference and our head of circ to discuss the con and get a general outline of what we want in the way of events during it and who we might need to hire. It is a definite go for late September/early October!

Our next steps:

1) Pick a date – this will allow us to start booking people, we’re looking at someone to teach drawing, both the 501st and Rebel Legion groups plus Boston has a similar superhero group, as well as someone to do balloon animals and start wrangling volunteers to help with facepainting, snack selling and more.

2) Mock up a schedule, which I’ll do in the next week. We figured out which rooms we were going to use and which we’re going to set aside for normal patron use.

3) Start designing publicity. We really want this program to pop (we have a few doubters in our group as to its possible popularity) so we want something unique and interesting!

I’ll hopefully be back with a report on the next steps as we do them.

Does your library do a comic-con? If so, share what’s worked for you! If you’re interested, let me know what you’d like me to post about to help you out!

Manga Reviews (5)

I often see people asking about manga on social media. Anything from “Is this manga okay for this age group?” to “What do you recommend?” A lot of the time, especially with recommendations, I see a lot of older titles. And while we all love older titles, I thought it might be fun to highlight some newer manga and give my overall thoughts–both good and bad. Basically, my guidelines for manga I look at is it has to be released in the US in the last year (I said 2017 in general), have at least 3 volumes, and be rated Teen + or lower.

So, here are some of the ones I looked at. (If you missed my earlier rounds of reviews, catch them here.)


Mermaid Boys
 by Yomi Sarachi

The mermaid prince is super-popular with all the girls lining up to be his bride. But the one he falls in love with…has legs!

Rating: Teen Plus

Volumes Read: 3

My Thoughts: When I first heard about this one I was excited. How fun would a gender-swapping little mermaid be? I don’t know what I was expecting, but it was definitely not what I got. It starts okay with a mermaid prince who loves all things on land and falls head over heels for a girl. He makes a deal with the sea witch; his exchange is not his voice but his good looks. Once on land, he instantly looks like a young boy instead of a good looking man. After that, it quickly goes downhill.

The fanservice and sexual assault in the first two volumes were enough to make me scream. Beyond the typical big boobs that are barely covered, you have things like him lifting up her skirt to see where panties actually go. Also, anytime the mermaids-who-are-humans (yes there is more than one) touch seawater they turn back into a mermaid; once they dry off they go back into a human. This transformation also means they lose their clothing, which leads to a lot of suggestive naked scenes.

The assault/harassment was a little more troubling in my book. There is, of course, the I love you-you have to love me type of thing, but there is also a scene where Nami tells him all his attention/saying he loves her makes her uncomfortable. His response? You’re so cute when you’re uncomfortable.

By volume three, things do tend to calm down a bit more. While there was still a lot of talk about love, it was more aimed at realizing it was unrequited and how to deal with that. The naked mermaid fanservice didn’t ease up much though. It’s hard to tell if the tameness will continue on to volume 4.  

As a side note, I was also really tired of all these mermaids being turned into humans. The count by the end of volume 3 was already up to 5; with two of them being the prince’s friends. Basically, it’s been if anyone suspects the sea witch evil plan he turns them into humans and sends them away. I’m hoping the current one will be the last because that storyline is already boring and played out. If you think your teens will really be into this one, it’s not horrible, but I don’t know that your shelves would be lacking if you skipped it.

 

Sacrificial Princess and the King of Beasts  by Yu Tomofuji

A young girl has resigned herself to being the next sacrificial meal for the Beast King…but the king is no mere monster! Love is more than skin-deep in this gorgeous fantasy manga.

Rating: Teen

Volumes Read: 3

My Thoughts: This one is another fairytale reimagining, but this time Beauty and the Beast. Sariphi, or Sari for sure, has known her whole life she’s to be a sacrifice to the King of Beasts. When the night finally comes she fully accepts her fate only to find that the King has no intention of killing her and in a turn of events decides she’s to be his future Queen.

Most of the story really focuses on Sari and her trying to find a place in the Beast world. She mainly thought of as a vile human, but she has a certain charm that wins over some. I love her journey of understanding her worth and realizing she can be more than just a sacrifice. She has a lot of growing to do, especially when it comes to friends and other relations. While a bit naive, she’s super sweet and it’s hard not to root for her at every turn. There is a nice balance of humor, especially with characters such as Cy and Clops. I also enjoyed the bonus end pages where she turns Sari into a beast and the others into human and retells a few pages of the story.

This does have the younger girl-older man romance thing, but it’s easy to forget since it’s fantasy and he’s mainly a Beast. (There is a twist to that, but I won’t spoil everything!) The physical aspect is pretty low. There is a couple of compromising positions, but the King and Sari only kiss maybe one. However, there is a lot of suggestive talk in the way of concubines and making the King happy. I think most teens would be able to handle it, but still worth mentioning.  Several of my teens have already proclaimed their love for this series and I do think it’s a worthy purchase.

 

Delicious in a Dungeon  by Ryoko Kui

When young adventurer Laios and his company are attacked and soundly thrashed by a dragon deep in a dungeon, the party loses all its money and provisions…and a member! They’re eager to go back and save her, but there is just one problem: If they set out with no food or coin to speak of, they’re sure to starve on the way! But Laios comes up with a brilliant idea: “Let’s eat the monsters!” Slimes, basilisks, and even dragons…none are safe from the appetites of these dungeon-crawling gourmands!

Rating: Teen

Volumes Read: 3

My Thoughts: Oh goodness, this is such a strange series, yet oddly really enjoyable? The beginning is a little “What am I reading?” and the character development is a bit slow, however, by volume 3 I was totally hooked. Basically, the premises is about adventures who are going to save their friend who was eaten by a dragon. Since this is such a pressing issue they don’t have time to go back to town/earn money to buy food. So, instead, they decide to kill monsters and eat them. For Laios, this is a dream come true and he literally has a book on the subject he’s been studying. The other two team members? Not so sold, but then they meet someone who has been living in the dungeons for years and joins their team and shows them how delicious the different monster are. And every time they cook, there’s a recipe with stats included as well. Yes, it’s utterly weird, but it really does have a certain charm and a lot of heart.  It may be one you need to handsell (maybe?), but I think the teens will love it!

 

Here are some manga currently on my pile for future reviews (either TBR or waiting for additional volumes):

  • Flying Witch
  • Teasing Master Takagi-san
  • Chio’s School Road
  • Sleepy Princess in the Demon Castle

Got a series you’d like me to check out? Leave the name in the comments and I’ll add it to my list!

Can My Little Brother Come? When Teen Programming Becomes All Ages

My teen programs have a very clear age posted on the sign, which is then put on the door of the meeting room: Ages 13-19. That’s what I’ve always intended for my programming’s audience to be, but the reality of doing programming in a branch with very few parents and a lot of teens watching younger kids has left the age make up of my programs very different from the ideal my signs communicate.

 

A case study: Anime Club at a mid-sized urban library in a low-SES area. 

At first, Anime Club was a small group of teens in our computer lab, playing video games and reading fanfiction while a show we all (mostly) agreed on played on the projector. I was pretty lax with noise and cursing as long as there was no hate speech and the upstairs library couldn’t hear us. Here’s the thing: it turns out at a branch where kids and teens are constantly being told to quiet down with their video games and to stop cursing, I had fulfilled a need. Word spread, and eventually all 18 computers were taken by teens a half hour before club started.

And then the younger kids wanted some of this action, because they want to play Roblox noisily too. I started fielding requests from 10-12 year-olds to come to Anime Club, which I allowed with parental permission after I explained that we watch PG-13 shows (invariably the parents told me they watch R-rated stuff at home) and that the older teens will likely be cursing around them (I was also often told that it was no worse than what the kids hear from them).

Then I was confronted with an older teen who wanted to bring his young (just barely walking) son to club. I also allowed this, reasoning that the parent is obviously allowing it and this allows the teen to socialize with kids his age, something he didn’t get as much since becoming a father at such a young age. Also, the baby was super cute and was doted upon by the (now large) group of teen boys I had coming to club.

Another dilemma: a family of 8 siblings, ages ranging from 18 to 8 months. The eldest siblings, an 18-year-old older brother and 15 and 16-year old sisters are often at the library watching the younger children for hours on end. I have only ever spoken to their mother once, but got the impression from her that she works long hours as a single mother, relies on the library to keep her kids safe, and is very, very grateful to us. If I allow only the eldest siblings to the program, the 8-year-old will be watching her baby siblings upstairs alone, and the teenagers will be getting food while the young kids go hungry, but getting ahold of their mother for permission probably isn’t going to happen.

Fast forward a couple years. We’ve moved out of the computer lab and into the meeting room, with two video game consoles, anime playing on a projector, a craft cart and a bunch of board games all out at once. I regularly have young middle-schoolers coming to Anime Club, and some young adults that rightly should have aged out but started working right out of high school and are still hanging out with their old friends who are still teenagers. The youngest regular attendee to Anime Club is 7 years old (she’s here with her older siblings, aged 11, 14, and 16.) The 13-19 age range on the door hides an actual age range of 7-21 (7-60ish if you count my Friends of the Library volunteer that the kids call “Granny”).

The Rules

This might sound like chaos, and to some degree, it is, but by sticking to a couple rules I’ve kept things running smoothly (or as smoothly as things can get at a teen program that averages 30 attendees on the regular).

  • Attendees outside the 13-19 age range are guests of the teens.

This means if you’re over the age of 19 I have the expectation that you are going to act like an adult volunteer, not a teenager. I have had some trouble with aged-out teens that don’t get this, and have had to unfortunately ask them not to come back to teen programming.

For 11 and 12-year-olds by themselves, I require a parent or guardian’s permission and I will revoke their privileges if they can’t handle being around the older teens (this usually rears its head as the younger kids cursing and screaming performatively because they want the teens to accept them as mature.)

10 and under, they have to be here with a guardian that is also a teen (usually an older sibling or cousin, though obviously sometimes that teen is a parent) that I trust to be responsible for them. These younger kids also have to show that they can handle being in club (currently I only have that one 7-year-old in this range). I flex whether I need parental permission for this group depending on the situation. A lot of kids that ask for their younger siblings to tag along are in precarious situations where their ability to get their parent to talk to me might be hindered.

  • If Anime Club has food, the food goes to attendees first, but anyone in the library can stop in and get something to eat.

Lots of very young kids are at our library for a very long time, especially during the summer. If I have food to give, I absolutely will not deny it to them, although it does go to the program’s purpose first.

The Takeaway

I would argue that this level of flexibility is not just ideal for teen programming, but necessary, especially in impoverished areas. Teenagers in my community are not just teens, they are caregivers. To disallow younger siblings would disallow a large portion of my community, arguably the portion that needs socialization with peers the most.

This set up has come with a lot of trial and error, and through a lot of communication and compromise with my managers. If I had started on my first day telling my manager I would let a preschooler come to a teen club, I doubt that would have flown. If you work in an area with a higher socio-economic status than I do, you may never be confronted with the question of young children coming to your program, but I urge you to be flexible and really suss out the family situation of the teen that asks. If you absolutely can’t let a younger child into your program, maybe you can ask a children’s programmer to hold a program at the same time as yours that allows the unattended siblings of the teens at your program (I’m happy to say we will be experimenting with a set up like this very soon!)

What age ranges do you allow at your teen programs? Have you had any age-related problems at your programming? Let us know in the comments below!

DIY Hot Chocolate

I don’t know about you, but I enjoy myself a good cup of hot chocolate. Growing up my drink was simple: A packet of Swiss Miss, hot milk or water, a little cold milk to cool it off and marshmallows, whip cream or cool whip. As I got older things changed, adding chocolate milk to cool it down or french vanilla creamer. I also learned that I love peppermint flavor.

Realizing that the only rules when it came to hot chocolate was that it be well, chocolate that hot and liquid, I decided to host a DIY Hot Chocolate Program at my library for teens to attend.

As my library doesn’t have a burner I did decide to stick to that Swiss Miss mix but bought melting milk, dark and white chocolate for teens to add it to. I also bought milk, had hot water ready to go and a microwave. I of course bought plenty of marshmallows but I forgot the whipped cream.

As a peppermint fan I found crushed peppermint on sale at Michael’s to purchase. Everything else came from Dollar Tree (including the Swiss Miss and Marshmallows) making this an affordable as well as fun program.

The supplies I bought were:

  • Cinnamon sticks
  • Cinnamon sugar
  • Chili Powder
  • Andees mint candy
  • (Mini) Oreos curshed
  • Crush Strawberry Flavoring
  • Diet Snapple Raspberry Flavoring
  • Shredded coconut
  • French Vanilla Creamer
  • Marshmallow Fluff

Other supply ideas are:

  • Bananas
  • Nutella
  • Peanut Butter
  • Cupcake/Icing Flavoring
  • Cinnamon
  • Nutmeg

Some of the Hot Chocolate creations were a success but others not so much. I recommend NOT using half a packet Diet Snapple Raspberry powder as flavoring as it is way too sweet. My teens however LOVED the crushed Oreos in their hot chocolate.

Using Food in Programs

Using food in programs? Sounds like a great idea! For the most part, it usually is…except for when it’s not.

My experience using food has been a mix of things. One of the districts that I work for fully allows the use of food for both part of a program and to just be given out to be eaten during a program. My other district has very strict guidelines about using food in youth programming.

The guidelines are for the safety of patrons and to keep the district from being liable from any potentially arising issues, which is understandable. These are the main guidelines that we are to follow when dealing with food purchases for programs:

The following are NOT allowed:

  • Homemade food/beverage is not allowed.
  • No food/beverage prepared or stored in a private residence may be used or served.
  • Prepackaged foods that do not have a label or have been previously opened.
  • Donated food/beverage is not allowed unless the donor is approved by management and meets all the conditions for catered or prepackaged food.
  • Food with expired dates is not allowed.

Foods to avoid that may cause allergic reactions in children:

  • Dairy products
  • Nuts (including peanut butter)
  • Wheat
  • Soy

However, we are allowed to use prepackaged foods that do have labels, which nowadays open up a lot of new possibilities. We don’t use food in programs often, but we do offer it for a few specific ones. Every week we have a program called Teen Tuesday in which we are able to give our teens some chips because they are pre-packaged ones with labels, which is permissible under the above guidelines. We also have a teen after hours every summer that we are able to purchase food for that follow these guidelines. The great thing about having these guidelines is that there is no guessing involved when buying food as to whether or not it can be used. The sad part, is that it means there are a lot of fun programs that likely can’t be put on due to allergy concerns.

At my other district, we actually do a ton of food centric programming. We do programs that are based around using the food in it, and we usually offer chips/crackers and water/soda at every program. If you want attendance at programs, food is a great way to get it. We also have a lower SES percentage so it helps in making sure our teens are fed.

Some of the fun programs we do using food include

  • Cupcake or Cookie Wars – each teen gets a plain cupcake or cookie, frosting, and candy to decorate on a given theme
  • Peeps diorama – each teen receives a few peeps and things to use as decoration
  • Chocolate Wars – set up somewhat like minute to win it, but all games involve chocolate
  • DIY Ice Cream in a Bag – using the classic rock salt, milk, sugar, and flavoring
  • Candy Sushi – rice krispies treats and a variety of other candies as decoration
  • Gingerbread Houses – graham crackers, frosting, variety of candy
  • Egg Drop – eggs and materials to protect it

What kind of food guidelines does your library have? What sort of food programs have you done or plan to do? Let us know in the comments below!