Last month, I started an anime club at my branch library because anime is still, and always will be, popular. In fact, we had six teens show up to the very first meeting and, needless to say, they are super excited to be a part of this program. During our first meeting, I asked the teens what they want to see in anime club and the first thing they asked me was: “Can we do more than just watch anime? I literally screamed “YES!” because I have every intention of diversifying this program and I will definitely need the teens’ help in making this club thrive.
During our discussion about the club, the teens asked for a variety of programs that would include a cosplay event, a history of manga presentation, a Japanese food program, an anime inspired craft workshop, and other programs that celebrate the Japanese culture. Not only are these ingenious ideas, these will transform an already popular program into something else even more awesome. By taking a different approach to anime club, and asking teens what they want from a program, we, as teen services librarians, are demonstrating what it is to be innovative. According to the Core Professional Values for the Teen Services Profession, innovation “approaches projects and challenges with a creative, innovative mindset. 1” By changing the concept of anime club (aka. sitting around and watching anime), we are adding elements that have the potential to not only bring in more teens, but help us re-evaluate our approach to programming in general. For example, when starting a new service or program, it is absolutely essential to consult our teens; by going straight to the source, we establish the outcomes we want to reach, which will shape how we plan and implement a successful program. Once we get a consensus of what teens want from programs and services, we need to figure out the best ways to get teens into the library, which is why we need to get innovative with our outreach.
Although many of us use social media and other marketing methods, the one method that we can always rely on is reaching out to our community. Whether it’s a concert venue, a teen center, a school event, or even a college fair, we need to meet teens face-to-face and tell them what services are available. If we don’t have the means, or the opportunities to go out into the community, we can easily apply that idea to every teen that walks into our library. In other words, we need to be vigilant in making sure that every teen is welcome and that we are available to serve them to the best of our ability. Furthermore, we need to do everything in our power to establish some sort of contact with them, which can easily start with “Hi! I am the Teen Services Librarian. What’s your name?” By initiating, and creating an ongoing dialogue with teens, they will realize that there are actual adults who are dedicated to serving them, which is not only great for us, but incredibly beneficial for those who need a safe environment to be who they are and for those who feel the need to be a part of something. With this new anime club, my hope is to not only involve the teens in the planning process, but give them the chance to be involved in the implementation. Whether it’s passing out flyers, using their massive social network to promote the program, or setting up the program, teens will experience all the necessary steps to finish what they started. Anything is possible with teens so let’s give them the chance to show the community their passion and dedication to providing something unique and fun!
Along with consulting teens, their involvement is essential. By working with our teens, we are not just encouraging youth participation, which is defined in The Future of Library Services For and with Teens: A Call to Action report, we are getting the feedback we need to get in touch with our teen community to ensure that we are supporting their interests and needs 2. By hosting a variety of events that celebrate anime, manga, and Japanese culture, teens will not only be able to interact with their fellow anime and manga enthusiasts, their excitement will lead to other programs and services. In other words, the teens who built the anime club will want the library to provide other programs that relate to their interests, so why not create an art program? What about a Sushi making class? How about an animation workshop? Another great aspect about transforming the traditional anime club is that teens will learn how to communicate, and work, with teen services staff and one another.
With every program we plan, it is imperative we implement a component that prepares teens for adulthood. In this case, teens will learn the importance of working as a group, the need to respect each other’s ideas, the need for positive relationships, and the benefits of being organized and thorough. Moreover, teens will have the opportunity to interact with us, which is not only rewarding, but necessary for teens as they develop. According to The Future of Library Services For and with Teens: A Call to Action report, teen services librarians are being asked to build relationships with teens to support academic, career, and civic engagement and growth2. By developing programs with teens, it is imperative that we help our teens develop the skills they will need as adults, which is why programming can be a great teaching moment. More importantly, we need to help our teens build the confidence to follow through with their goals, which is why it’s important that we work alongside them instead of telling them what to do. By giving teens the opportunity, and the tools, to change our services, we are not only telling them that they matter, but their interests and well-being matter as well.
With all of the ideas that the anime club members came up with, I am very excited to see how our anime club will develop. More importantly, I am more excited about getting to know these teens, which will help me help them become civic minded adults who are confident and willing to take on the challenges of this world and are ready to do what they have to do to become successful.