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Local manga library goes on the road to conventions

A young fan reads manga provided by the Carolina Manga Library, which sets up its shelves filled with thousands of books at conventions around the country.
A young fan reads manga provided by the Carolina Manga Library, which sets up its shelves filled with thousands of books at conventions around the country. Provided by Carolina Manga Library

The annual NashiCon in Columbia has spawned an export – the Carolina Manga Library. The library is a collection of thousands of manga books that is packed up and taken to conventions. Here’s the story from head librarian Laura B. Mehaffey.

What prompted the library?

In 2013, the director of NashiCon, a close friend from school, asked me to bring my extensive collection of Japanese manga to NashiCon and run a small library for the attendees. With a few trusted friends and a basic idea, we set up our library and were immediately swamped with readers. By the end of the weekend we had over 300 visitors come through our door.

Since I was already studying library science in college, my mind went immediately to the benefits of a service like ours. I had been seeking a way to take my personal love of comics and manga and share it with others. So many teens and children watch cartoons and anime these days that encouraging them to read about their fandoms is a fairly simple task. The literacy rates in our public schools are very low, but we believe that those rates can be improved by showing children and teens that reading for pleasure can help them in school and in life.

Has the growth been steady?

We have experienced a massive amount of growth in the last two years. We started with about 400 graphic novels and one devoted volunteer. Now we have over 3,000 books and more than a dozen volunteers. In late 2013, we participated in a successful online crowd-funding campaign to raise $1,500 for new shelves. We moved from plastic, cheap shelving to sleek folding wooden shelves. It makes the library much more professional and allows us greater mobility when packing for a new show. With so many books, and more coming in at each show, we have moved our stock and shelving to a storage unit.

How many events do you take the mobile library to each year?

Our library is limited by our lack of full-time employees. We attend one show every four to five weeks currently.

How long does it take to pack it up and take it down?

The entire library consists of more than 20 shelves, 50 boxes of books, signage and decorations. Working with five volunteers, it takes between two and three hours to set up or break down the library. In addition it takes about an hour to both load and unload our rented trailer.

Do you get time to participate in the other fun at events such as NashiCon?

While staffing the library is the most important part of attending a show, we work very hard on scheduling so that all of our volunteers can enjoy the many wonderful events at NashiCon. Several of our volunteers participate in the Cosplay Contest, attend the formal and informal dances, and either sit in or run panels. I myself am running a panel about graphic novels and their importance to readers, students, and teachers.

How can people contribute (either monetary or manga)?

The Carolina Manga Library accepts in-kind donations of used graphic novels and anime DVDs. We can accept these donations either at the shows that we attend or via mail. Anyone wishing to donate used graphic novels or anime DVDs may mail them to Carolina Manga Library, 108 Bowhill Court, Irmo, SC 29063.

We also accept cash donations on our website at www.carolinamangalibrary.com. We are currently seeking the funding to purchase our own library vehicle and trailer.

Joey Holleman

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