This morning I was able to run down to the Manga Cafe. I chatted with manager Kris Zoleta about the cafe, surrounded by racks of graphic novels. The room was a pleasant break from the hustle and bustle of the convention, and with all of those books, there were more than a few that I wanted to curl up with on a bench and read.
Kris told me that the manga library was introduced to the con in 2005, but due to a department move, it wasn’t included last year. It was back on the schedule this year, bigger and better, as the Manga Cafe. Kris has been a staffer for three years, and he started working in the library. In fact, it’s the only department that he wanted to work in. The guy takes after my own heart, though I’d be too busy reading all of the books to get any work done.
The books were donated or purchased with a manga budget, and there are over 2000 thousand volumes! They have both English translated and Japanese manga, and the books are packed up at the end of the con to be used again next year.
It took about 13 hours to set everything up. The racks gave them a bit of trouble, as some of them kept collapsing. Kris sheepishly admitted that he under-estimated the amount of shelving that they needed, and therefore they didn’t have enough room to display all of the Japanese manga, of which there are over 500 volumes.
The hours for the Cafe are 8 am to 2 am, but Kris is hoping for a 24 hour schedule in the future. The busiest times are after the exhibit hall closes to about 11 pm, and at times, there’s a line to get in. They have seating for about 50 people, and once all of the chairs are occupied, they can’t allow anyone else in. He guessed that people were spending between fifteen minutes to two hours in the cafe.
The procedure for utilizing the Manga Cafe is easy. Hand over your badge at the door so they can sign you in, check your bags, and then take your time perusing the manga lining the walls. In 2005, individual titles were signed out, but this year they’re experimenting with a more user friendly system. When I asked about inventory shrinkage, he commented that he didn’t think it would be a huge problem. Getting caught stealing a book means a lifetime ban from the con. Hopefully most people will agree it’s not worth the risk.
Some of Kris’ favorite series are W Juliet, Gentleman’s Alliance, and Yuu Watase titles. Poor Kris has been so devoted to getting the Manga Cafe up and running smoothly that he hasn’t even had a chance to visit the exhibit hall yet! Hopefully he’ll be able to sneak away before all of the manga is snatched up by the hoards that have descended on the Long Beach Convention Center!