Carolina Manga Library: Zenkaikon’s (Not-so-)Secret Oasis

One of the greatest benefits of staying at a convention’s on-site hotel is that when you’re feeling tired or overwhelmed, a private bedroom is just minutes away. But if you drove from home or are staying somewhere not within walking distance, where do you go when you want to escape from the chaos of the con? It’s not exactly comfortable or sanitary to hide out in the bathroom until you’re ready to get back out on the floor, and even if you happen upon somewhere to sit it would still be in a public area. Fortunately, many anime conventions have a not-so-secret getaway spot: a manga library. In Zenkaikon’s case, nestled in the History room on Floor 3 of the convention center was the Carolina Manga Library. This delightful little alcove provided an oasis for attendees to relax and recharge away from the hustle and bustle of the rest of the con.

Before I visited the library itself, I noticed that they had a table set up in the Dealers Room/Artist Alley downstairs with a wheel to spin for the chance to win a huge anime wall scroll. The wheel was divided into seven blue sections, seven white sections, three red sections, and one gold section. Landing on blue, white, or red meant you could choose a small prize from a corresponding selection including bubble wands, squishy sea creatures, and Pokémon stickers, while you needed to land on gold to bring home the wall scroll. It was $5 for one spin or $20 for five spins. All proceeds went directly to the library, since it’s run entirely by volunteers and they rely on donations to keep operating. I went with the five-for-$20 options, and although I didn’t win the grand prize, in retrospect I don’t have anywhere I could put a wall scroll of that size even if I had won it. Everyone who spun the wheel, even if only once, received a free badge ribbon that said “It’s not gambling if it’s for charity!” The volunteer running the table also occasionally shouted out this phrase to attract customers.

Image courtesy of the Carolina Manga Library Facebook account.

On Sunday morning, while fellow Fandom Spotlite writer Hailey and her wife attended a panel that I wasn’t particularly interested in, I paid the library a visit. As a book lover and an advocate for literacy, it immediately warmed my heart to walk in and see so many people with their noses buried in books. The expansive library, which started at the entrance and wrapped all the way around to the back of the room, was organized in alphabetical order by title, except for certain displays such as a collection of Avatar: The Last Airbender comics. I ended up sitting down with the first book that really caught my eye: DC Pride: The New Generation. This collection of short comics was displayed on top of a shelf labeled “Western Comics.” While I was on my way to grab a seat, I overheard one of the library workers helping a young girl find something to read. Apparently, this brave little girl was very into the horror genre and had recently read some of renowned horror writer Junji Ito’s works at this librarian’s suggestion. The librarian’s next recommendation was the manga Mieruko-chan; I had watched the anime adaptation of this story and absolutely adored it, so I made sure to tell the girl that it was an excellent choice. 

Hailey and I had attended a panel called “The Cat Lover’s Guide to Cat Manga” the night before (read the review here), and I recalled them mentioning that one of their recommendations was only one volume long: perfect for reading in one sitting. I was worried I wouldn’t be able to find it since I couldn’t remember the title; however, the conversation I’d overheard between the librarian and the young girl had reminded me that the manga in question was by none other than Junji Ito. There was a small display dedicated to his books (on top of the fourth shelf in the image below), so I immediately found what I was looking for: “Junji Ito’s Cat Diary: Yon & Mu.” It was just as hilarious as the panelists had said it would be. I honestly don’t know if I ever would have sought it out myself, so I’m grateful to the Carolina Manga Library for giving me the opportunity to add it to my “read” list!

The library also sold merchandise in the back of the room. Some of the items for sale included stickers, sticker books, plush “library cats,” keychains, tote bags, light-up snow globes, and coloring books, and although none of the books on the shelves were available for purchase, you could buy manga bundles at the merch table (pictured below). I’ve been hearing a lot about sticker books lately and had been considering getting one for myself, so I took the opportunity to buy one here. I also purchased a sticker of a cat with a book to christen the first page with, as per the salesperson’s suggestion. I later ended up putting the Pokémon stickers I won from the charity wheel in the book as well.

Even when more people flooded into the room after a nearby panel let out, it maintained the peaceful air of a library. Everyone talked in whispers (if at all) and mostly kept to themselves. At the end of your visit, there was the option to complete an online survey in exchange for a badge ribbon that says “This isn’t even my final chapter!” You could also receive a badge ribbon that says “Anime-niac” in exchange for following the library on social media. Some of the questions on the survey included which books you read during your visit and if there are any books you would like the library to add to their collection. Overall, I was extremely satisfied with the Carolina Manga Library and hope to see them again at a future convention!

You can read all about the Carolina Manga Library on their website and also support them on Patreon.

About Gabby Bibus

Gabby has been obsessed with anime since she was just 9 years old, and is proud to say she has watched over 200 different series. But that’s not even her biggest claim to fame: she also lives on a farm with over 80 goats! Although anime and animals are her two favorite things in the world, she also loves music, books, and movies. Her day job is a middle school ESL teacher, and she is also a staff member at the New Jersey Renaissance Faire.

View all posts by Gabby Bibus

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.