Anime – it is a term that I have learned makes many librarians cringe. As soon as the subject is broached, they immediately pawn it off on a younger clerk or page who knows about such things. And you can’t really blame them! The titles can be nearly impossible to spell and that’s assuming the patron says it right. Between “seasons”, “collections”, and “OVAs” (Original Video Animation; basically straight to DVD without a theater or television release), each series has multiple versions. To top it off, since they aren’t rated by the Motion Picture Association of America, it is hard to figure out what is appropriate for whom.
So when it comes time to do the collection development, this portion of the collection can be neglected and dated. Beyond this, librarians may be ignoring it as a useful programming tool to bring in one of our hardest demographics, the teens!
The good news is, you don’t need to know much about anime to get started. In my job interview, I was asked what kind of programs I would like to implement for teens. I dug back into my days interning in grad school and helping their teen librarian host their wildly popular anime club. At the time of the interview, I had seen maybe 2 or 3 anime films. Suddenly, now I was “the anime guy” at my new job. I was asked to order all the anime movies for 10 branches.
First lets talk about what expectations you have with ordering this genre. Anime refers specifically to Japanese animation. For the most part, it is the same as any other movie or television show. You are still going to look at cost. You are still going to have to pick what format works best for your library. You are still going to be making judgment calls on what will circulate and what won’t.
Unfortunately, quite a few titles are only available on Blu-ray right now, so if your library doesn’t offer that you are just out of luck. Many of them come as Blu-ray/DVD combos. One possible problem with these, at least that I’ve noticed with our vendor, Midwest Tapes, is that they include the DVD “while supplies last”. I have not yet encountered a situation where they only sent me a Blu-ray and not the DVD, but they post it is a possibility.
Also, with these, if you don’t normally circulate Blu-rays, you are paying Blu-ray price for just the DVD. You have to decide if that is worth it for your collection. I will skip over many of the Blu-ray/DVD combo packs unless it is an incredibly popular title. For example, Attack on Titan came like this. Based on its popularity, I knew the library had to add it, so I bit the bullet and paid the price for it.
If your library is just starting to develop its collection, another factor to consider is how to display it. Are you going to interfile it with your other titles or is it going to have its own display? We recently decided to make our shelf locations uniform across all branches. At the time, some of our branches had an anime section and some did not. We debated briefly whether or not to interfile them with the other DVDs.
Here’s my argument for anime having its own shelf location: People looking for anime typically just want anime and maybe manga (Japanese graphic novels). Not having that shelf location eliminates the browsing potential for them. At my branch, we have about 25,000 DVDs. Of those about 500 are anime. I don’t think people picking up Sleepless In Seattle are going to think, “Oh and here’s Sailor Moon! I’ve been meaning to watch that!” But if they have that dedicated shelf location, they very well may think, “While I’ve got Attack on Titan, I might as well get some Dragon Ball Z, oh and Fairy Tail too!”
Interfiling anime creates some problems of its own. Many of them are television shows, many are movies, so that further spreads them out. Also, most of them are in Japanese. So do you put it with your foreign collection?
That should give you some ideas to think about when ordering your anime collection. In the next part, I will talk about language selection, how to judge whether a title is appropriate for your teens, and give you a few helpful resources to help make title selection easier.
Jonathan Davis is the assistant branch manager and teen librarian at a large Indiana public library system (Lake County Public Library). He has ordered anime DVDs for 10 branches for nearly two years and has been running a successful teen anime club for most of this time. He received his MLS at Indiana University.
These articles are written in conjunction with a seminar on anime collection development and programming that were certified by the Indiana State Library that he presented in conjunction with his fellow teen librarian at Lake County Public Library, Jennifer Billingsley. This seminar will be presented again at the Indiana Library Federation Annual Conference in Indianapolis this November.