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Public and academic library collaboration through an anime and comics enthusiasts convention (ACEcon).

In the spirit of collaboration and relationship building, the Palm Harbor Library (PHL) in Palm Harbor, Florida and St. Petersburg College's (SPC) Tarpon Springs campus library (also called the Learning Resources Center) formed a unique, informal partnership. The communities of Palm Harbor and Tarpon Springs, Florida, located in Pinellas County, are geographically close, located only 3.6 miles apart from each other. This proximity contributed to the feasibility of the partnership. This informal partnership had institutional support from the Director of the Palm Harbor Library as well as the Director of Learning Resources, Campus Provost, and Student Life and Leadership Coordinator at SPC's Tarpon Springs campus.

In the past, public and academic libraries had very different missions (Gunnels, Green, & Butler, 2012). Academic libraries have traditionally focused exclusively on the research needs of their own faculty and students. However, many academic library missions, especially those of community colleges, now also focus on reaching out to all members of the larger geographic community. Partnering with local resources can help accomplish this mission. Robertson (2005) tends to agree, stating that all libraries "foster community dialogue" (p. 2). In the case of this particular collaboration between the libraries of pHl and SPC, both institutions include education and serving the local community as key parts of their missions. (1)

Gene Coppola, director of PHL, and Jorge Perez, former program director of the Tarpon Springs Campus library of SPC, were interested in learning how public and academic libraries can collaborate and learn from each other's service models, especially when both institutions share a similar community. They agreed to host a half-day workshop at SPC where staff from both locations would discuss specific services offered and where collaborations could occur. Staff members were assembled into four teams in order to create focus groups to discuss resources, programming/events, marketing, staffing, and any miscellaneous items that came up during each meeting. The focus groups came to an agreement to work on three items: work on a big event such as a comics convention, begin a shadowing program where staff would learn and observe daily procedures and processes, and establish an ongoing collaborative email/social media communication. Planning a big event was the item that appealed to most involved.

The specific event identified from this informal partnership was to plan and execute a two-day comic book convention, the Anime and Comics Enthusiasts Convention (ACEcon). The goal of this experience was to highlight both organizations to the SPC Tarpon Springs campus and greater Palm Harbor community (including a large unincorporated area), while at the same time creating a fun and educational event.

Comics and anime have gained in popularity over the past decade, with attendance at conventions rising steadily from 2000 to 2012 (Alverson, 2013). Furthermore, with more than 80% of sales outside of Japan, clearly comics and anime are at the forefront of popular culture and could be a great draw for getting reluctant library users in the doors ("Mad about Manga," 2009). Since programming is beneficial to both the public library constituents as well as students in academic libraries, collaborating makes sense. Collaborating on programs combines both member audiences, resulting in "richness and relevance to content" (Robertson, 2005, p. 29).

Even as the world becomes increasingly digitized, there is still a strong need to have a physical space in which to engage the community with program offerings for varied interest groups. Robertson (2005) argues that "it is no longer sufficient or desirable for the library to be a 'warehouse' for books and other materials" (p. 4). Instead, Robertson (2005) encourages librarians to adopt many different programs, making sure they have commitment from all levels of administration. Exner (2012) shows that libraries can be a perfect venue for programming by hosting teen clubs, movie showings, or even more ambitious events such as festivals and conventions for enthusiasts. These types of programs mirror those of the "otaku culture" of the anime and manga fan community that emphasize social gatherings, sharing of information and ideas, and learning.

One of the reasons anime conventions are such a perfect fit for libraries as cultural programming is the social nature of anime culture. According to Exner (2012), "Fan conventions are an important part of anime and manga culture" (p. 28). For many, cosplay, which is dressing up as a character from anime, manga, comic books, or video games, is the whole purpose of attending. Some participants wear store-bought costumes; however, "serious devotees of cosplay insist on making their own costumes so that they can express their own image concept" (Exner, 2012, p. 29). Costumed event attendees often pose for other fans, perform mini-skits, and enter cosplay and costume contests. In addition to the emphasis on costumes, there are often Japanese culture-related items as well, such as modern or traditional Japanese arts, music, or food. Finally, Exner (2012) notes that art is an important part of manga; events frequently provide space for amateur fan artists to sell and display their work.

Benefitting From Collaboration

Over the past few years, a number of libraries have partnered with comic shops and groups to create events like ACEcon. There are definitely challenges to hosting a convention in a traditional library space, but these have been combated in creative ways. The Toronto Public Library, for example, partnered with the Toronto Comics Art Festival and a local store called The Beguiling. This resulted in seven additional events taking place over a nine-year span (Brenner, 2012). We overcame our logistical and resource challenges by holding our event over two days, one day at each location, making the best use of each space.

Larrance (2002) lists many benefits to collaborating, including some that are not readily apparent. Some of the more obvious benefits include sharing services and resources, and saving money. Larrance (2002) also points out some less obvious advantages, including "the expansion of learning opportunities for students, faculty, and staff; the additional knowledge and expertise gained when collaboration and cooperation occur; and the synergy that often occurs" (p. 3).

Most importantly, a commitment needs to be made by all parties, including the team leader, administration and any individuals involved. As mentioned previously, our event was supported by administration from both institutions. It is also important to make sure that the specific collaboration is done at the right time, which could make or break its success (Larrance, 2002). In this case, the timing seemed to be right for collaboration of this kind. Additionally, both institutions offer anime and manga clubs. PHL offers the Teen Anime Club, "The Rulers of the Anime Kingdom" (TROTAK), that meets every last Monday of the month. They offer events and meetings to discuss members' favorite anime characters, least favorite story arcs, and memorable cosplay experiences. At SPC, student clubs include the Tabletop Titans (a gaming club), and an Anime Club, both with faculty advisors. Furthermore, advertising materials could be shared between the two organizations, and other services such as club meeting times, additional library events, and upcoming workshops could be shared as well.

Each entity has unique resources to bring to the table. In fact, sharing resources not only saves money, it sets a precedent for continued collaboration for value-added services. "Leveraging resources is not just about sharing or dividing resources; rather it is the synergetic process of making more from what is available" (Larrance, 2002, p. 3).

One of the most distinctive benefits of this collaboration was the sharing of building space. Each institution's space is set up to accommodate different types of functions. For the ACEcon in particular, PHL's multi-purpose room served as a perfect venue to house the vendor tables. SPC's Fine Arts building contains two functional art classrooms that were the ideal location for drawing and costuming workshops.

Another benefit of joint resources is the sharing of costs. PHL secured funding through the Youth Advisory Board (YAB) that covered the costs of marketing materials and flyers. At SPC, a proposal was written and submitted to the Student Government Association (SGA) to secure funds for the band and pizza. The event was held over two days that the libraries were already open so no additional electric or staffing costs were needed, with the exception of extra security at SPC. Combining resources saved each of the institutions money and helped to reach the ultimate goal of providing an informative and cost effective event.

One of the biggest surprises during planning the event was how it seemed to grow organically. Starting with just two librarians meeting over coffee, additional individuals were brought into the planning committee with varied talents and ideas that helped the event enormously. Staff members from both institutions were able to recommend people to lead workshops, give presentations, and help with organization and planning.

For the ACEcon event, the planning committee consisted of members from both PHL and SPC. This included three librarians (including two in youth services), an instructional specialist, a faculty member / Anime club advisor, an SPC student, and a library employee with experience running comic conventions. Panelists for the various activities and games were recruited through committee members' connections and their involvement with local conventions.

One SPC faculty member in particular has strong ties to the anime community. Fred Oppliger graduated from St. Petersburg College in 1991 and teaches as an adjunct instructor at SPC. He has professional experience in the American anime industry, is involved with licensing, translation, and domestic DVD distribution of three anime television series, and is widely recognized as one of America's foremost experts on anime. Oppliger records a weekly AnimeNation podcast and is a frequent guest lecturer at anime conventions across the country. He was invited to take part not only in planning the event, but also presenting two lectures and participating as a vendor.

Likewise, at PHL, staff member Samma Fagan was quickly recruited. Since 2005 she has helped in various ways with Metrocon, now known as Florida's largest anime convention, and has staffed it as Panel Coordinator since 2009. Along with fellow Library Assistant Jessica Beeler, she is a founder of the group The Con Artists, a volunteer group with seven founders and over 60 members who collaborate to put on interactive and instructive panels. With their first panels as a group in 2008, they have performed Whose Line Is It Anime to audiences ranging from 10 to 1,000, have gotten fans of all ages to run around and perform silly tasks with various "questing" events for popular fandoms such as Naruto and The Legend of Zelda, and have become wellknown for their live-action adaptation of the popular video game Pokemon Snap. The group brought in a dozen volunteers to run Anime Nostalgia Bingo, Pokemon Snap, Fanime Feud, and Whose Line Is It Anime at ACEcon, free of charge.

This led to a natural division of tasks based on individuals' strengths. At PHL, Kiki Durney served as an informal coordinator for the tasks and implementation of programs. She also assigned individual tasks to each person facilitating the program and checked up on their progress. PHL handled all of the Saturday vendors and events, with Samma Fagan and Jessica Beeler creating multiple workshops and interactive games. Additionally, Fagan created an annotated event brochure to give out to attendees. Durney also brought in people to do workshops and, along with Marisa Meale, conducted most of the performer and vendor recruitment. In addition to creating the flyer artwork, Meale also created a directory of local eateries.

At SPC, all library staff members worked together to make sure the event was successful. Paula Knipp, Reference and Instruction Librarian, wrote up a pre-con checklist for everyone to follow. Karen Walker, an instructional specialist and adjunct faculty member, created surveys to distribute to attendees. The college's facilities team made sure that layouts of all the rooms were organized. Other members of both institutions created the directional signage and were responsible for creating volunteer lanyards, printing brochures, and creating a library outreach cart of books.

Robertson (2005) includes collaboration as one of the most important components of effective programming. She explains that "inviting voices to the table" and "allowing others to share ownership" are two of the most effective things that can be done (Robertson, 2005, p. 25). This includes extending a welcome not just to each institution, but also to individuals, board members, local businesses, and even the media. When collaborating, those agencies and groups with a part in the planning will have a stake in the outcome and will help ensure its success (Robertson, 2005). This was key to recruiting vendors for the event as well. Committee members were tasked with locating a minimum of three potential vendors who would fit within the theme of the convention. This led to a list of nearly 20 potential vendors including those involved in the local arts scene, comic book creators, craftspeople, and shop owners.

Additionally, collaborating on an event encourages attendance at both venues and lends increased visibility. The community has a chance to explore its local college, and SPC students have an opportunity to find out what their local public library has to offer. The increased visibility is especially beneficial to St. Petersburg College, an educational institution that recruits many high school students from the local area. Of the approximately 100 people attending on the second day, 30 responded to a survey (see Appendix B for survey instrument). The responses showed that this was a first visit to St. Petersburg College for 56% of event attendees. Additionally, the largest percentage of visitors (48%) was in the 13-17 years of age range (see Figure 1). This is a key demographic for college recruiting purposes. To take advantage of the exposure, a table was set up at the event with information on degree offerings and how to apply.

Further evidence that the convention reached potential new audiences can be seen in the survey results. Of those responding, 85% indicated that they did not attend SPC (see Figure 2), and for 56% of attendees, the ACEcon was their first time on a SPC campus (see Figure 3).

Marketing is a very important component of any successful event. Comic themed events have specific advertising and marketing tactics that ensure success. In the article "Host Your Own Anime Convention" by Maureen Delaughter (2011), the author discusses best practices in strategic marketing, including having a schedule of events printed inside of flyers, distribution of flyers to local libraries and schools, and reaching out to comic and gaming shops. The ACEcon event followed many of these tips (see Figure 4). Marisa Meale, PHL Youth Librarian, and Samma Fagan, PHL Library Assistant, collaborated to create the flyer. Meale did all of the artistic renderings, and Fagan digitized and formatted the information. It was distributed to the local YMCA, The Centre of Palm Harbor, First Watch, and around the library. The owner of Wonder Water Sports Cards Comics and Games also distributed flyers, and made road signs that he placed around the community. Flyers were also given to Starbucks, other local comic stores, and to MegaCon (a large, Florida based, multi-genre convention).


ACEcon, a two-day, two-location event took place Saturday, March 29, 2014 and Sunday, March 30, 2014. This event brought in close to 100 attendees each day, and, as mentioned previously, funding was secured through a combination of Youth Advisory Board funds (PHL) and Student Government Association (SPC) budget. See Appendix A for images from the event.

Day One

Held at the Palm Harbor Library, the first day included more than twelve vendors selling everything from original artwork to rare comics and wearable items. An authors' table provided the opportunity to speak with a published novelist and purchase autographed books. The first day's events also included donated door prizes, a photo booth, interactive activities, and a presentation. Attendees played Anime Nostalgia Bingo, a colorful game of bingo highlighting twenty-eight anime greats throughout the decades and offering prizes for each round of play. A gaming suite at the end of the day provided board, card, and group games, and a tabletop role-playing game with a chance to win a Yu-Gi-Oh mini deck and new cards. ACEcon goers also attended a Brief History of Anime presentation, which provided a concise history of modern Japanese animation, from its beginnings in Japan in 1958 to the contemporary and post-modern entertainment medium that it is today. The PHL's Youth Advisory Board members did most of the volunteering for the event (e.g., checking people in, security, handling the flow of foot traffic, directing people where to find events/workshops).

Day Two

The SPC Tarpon Springs campus hosted the events on Sunday. On the main stage The Ken Spivey Band, a Doctor Who inspired duo, started the day off, and a demonstration by a martial arts school followed. The largest event was the Cosplay Runway and Contest where cosplayers showed off their costumes. Event goers later learned about grassroots amateur and fan-produced anime during Introduction to Doujin Anime. This presentation provided an historical overview of rare and outstanding "doujinshi" anime ranging from the early 1980s convention fan films to today's original and homage anime productions that rival the quality of big-budget professional studio works. Throughout the day, attendees had three workshops to choose from, including origami, costume construction, and comic drawing facilitated by professionals in the field. There were also interactive activities for participants to try such as Fanime Feud, a family feud-based game with questions about the fandom community, Whose Line is it Anime, an improvisational game with anime topics, and Pokemon Snap, where participants attempt to take pictures of Pokemon-costumed characters. Along with free pizza, a wide assortment of Asian candies provided a cross-cultural comparison about the foods of different countries.

Considering the Future

Survey results showed that nearly all participants either planned on attending or may attend next year (see Figure 5). The feedback strongly urged the convention to have more comic-related items, including vendors, on both days and to include comic-themed programming in addition to the anime offerings. A greater variety in food offerings was identified, as well as the need to closely adhere to the schedule for programs. It was also clear from the feedback and attendance levels that the committee needs to increase advertising and marketing for the event. These are all things the committee can address and correct before hosting a convention next year.


We conclude that PHL and SPC met their main goals of offering a fun and educational event, considering that most attendees said they would return if offered again next year, and 69% of attendees responding to the survey learned something new (see Figure 6).

Additionally, ACEcon was a great way to establish a partnership between our libraries and even between departments within each library. With approximately 100 attendees each day of the event, we met our event goals of increasing visibility for both institutions, reaching out to the local community, and establishing our libraries as places of interest by using our combined talents, expertise, and skills in creative and productive ways. Most rewarding was the organic nature of the venture. Teams expanded and adapted as they acknowledged talents and expertise of staff and associates. ACEcon cemented the partnership, but it also laid the groundwork to develop a wider range of collaborative efforts. Both institutions plan on working together again on future events and possibly offering another joint staff development day. In the end, PHL and SPC's Tarpon Springs Campus Library succeeded in enriching the lives of current and potential users with an educational and entertaining experience, while also developing a partnership and encouraging the staff's personal growth and expression. The collaborative efforts of PHL and SPC's Tarpon Springs campus library created an event that gained visibility for both libraries that was "rewarding, enriching, and intellectually satisfying for the staff, the audience, and the presenters" (Robertson, 2005, p. 5).


Alverson, B. (2013, April 05). Manga 2013: A smaller, more sustainable market: Encouraging signs that the market is still there. Publishers Weekly. Retrieved from article/56693-manga-2013-a-smaller-more-sustainable-market.html

Brenner, R. (2012). Toronto library hosts Comics Fest. American Libraries, 43(7/8), 14-15.

Delaughter, M. (2011). Host your own anime convention. Voice of Youth Advocates, 34(4) 338-339.

Exner, N. (2012). Anime-zing in North Carolina: Library views of anime fans. North Carolina Libraries. 70(1), 28-34.

Gunnels, C. B., Green, S. E., & Butler, P. M. (2012). Joint libraries: Models that work. American Libraries. (9/10), 24-28.

Larrance, A. J. (2002). Expanding resources: Benefits to colleges and universities. In L. G. Dotolo, & J. B. Noftsinger (Eds.), Leveraging resources through partnerships (pp. 3-9). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Mad about manga. (2006). Chronicle of Higher Education, 52(47), A31-A33.

Robertson, D. A. (2005). Cultural programing for libraries: Linking libraries, communities & culture. Chicago, IL: American Library Association.

Appendix A

Images From ACEcon 2014

Appendix B

Survey Distributed on the Second Day of the 2014 ACEcon

ACEcon 2014 Survey

Palm Harbor Library and SPC Tarpon Springs Library

In which of the following events/programs did you participate?

Saturday, 29th,      Sunday, 30th, SPC TS Library        How did you
PH Library                                               hear about

Vendors and       Ken Spivey Band    Origami Workshop    Word of mouth

A Brief History   Martial Arts       Drawing Anime       Flyer
of Anime          Demonstrations     and Comics

Anime Nostalgia   Cosplay Runway &   Pokemon Snap        Facebook
Bingo             Contest

Gaming Suite      Introduction to    Fanime Feud         Walk-in
                  Doujin Anime

                  Gaming Suite       Whose Line Is       Newspaper
                                     It Anime?

                  Costuming                              Internet Site

What is your     [less than   13 - 17   18 - 25   26 - 35   36 [less
age range?        or equal                                  than or
                   to] 12                                   equal to]

Do you attend SPC?        YES   NO   Is this your 1st visit   YESNO
                                     to an SPC campus?

Did you learn something   YES   NO   Do you plan to return    YESNO
new by attending the                 to next year's
ACEcon?                              ACEcon?

What was the most interesting part   What suggestions or comments do
of the convention?                   you have?

Paula J. Knipp is a Reference and Instruction Librarian at St. Petersburg College in Tarpon Springs, FL. Her interests include incorporating active learning and emerging technologies into instruction and she is currently completing coursework towards a degree in Project Management.

Karen R. Walker is an Instructional Design Technician for St. Petersburg College in Seminole, FL with a Master's degree in Liberal Studies and an interest in gamified e-learning.

Kiki Durney is the Head of Youth Services for the Palm Harbor Library in Palm Harbor, FL. She has a current state teaching certificate for middle grades as well as an MLIS from the University of South Florida.

Jorge E. Perez is the Digital Learning and Information Technology Librarian for the Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine at Florida International University in Miami, FL and is completing hours towards becoming a Licensed Mental Health Counselor.

(1) Palm Harbor Library (PHL) Vision Statement: St. Petersburg College (SPC) Mission Statement (in part): Procedures.pdf.

Paula J. Knipp, St. Petersburg College

Karen R. Walker, St. Petersburg College

Kiki Durney, Palm Harbor Library

Jorge E. Perez, Florida International University

Figure 1. Percentage of participants by age range.

Age Range of ACEcon 2014 Survey

Less than 13       4%
13 -- 17          48%
18 -- 25          22%
26 -- 35           7%
Greater than 35   19%

Note: Table made from pie chart.

Figure 2. Percentage of SPC student participants.

ACEcon 2014 Survey Respondents
Who Do or Do Not Attend SPC

Attend SPC          15%
Do Not Attend SPC   85%

Note: Table made from pie chart.

Figure 3. Percentage of participants visiting the SPC campus
for the first time at the ACEcon 2014 event.

ACEcon 2014 Survey Respondents
Who Did or Did not Visit an SPC
Prior to Event

1st Visit to Campus       44%
Not 1st Visit to Campus   56%

Note: Table made from pie chart.

Figure 4. How participants heard about the ACEcon 2014 event.

Method of Advertising From Which
Survey Respondents Say They Heard
of ACEcon 2014

Word of Mouth   55%
Flyer           14%
Facebook        28%
Walk-in          3%
Internet Site    0%

Note: Table made from pie chart.

Figure 5. Percentage of participants who plan to attend the next

ACEcon 2014 Survey Respondents
Who Plan, Do Not Plan, or May
Attend Next Year

Plan to Attend Next Year   69%
May Attend                 31%
Do Not Plan to Attend       0%

Note: Table made from pie chart.

Figure 6. Percentage of participants who learned something new.

ACEcon 2014 Survey Repsondents
Who Did or Did Not Learn Something

Learned Something New         69%
Did Not Learn Something New   31%

Note: Table made from pie chart.
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Author:Knipp, Paula J.; Walker, Karen R.; Durney, Kiki; Perez, Jorge E.
Publication:Journal of Library Innovation
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Oct 1, 2015
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