My first library program was a failed teen writing workshop which, tragically, no one showed up to. The current teen librarian at our branch was having a little more success than I was at that time. Her programs typically had between 4-8 people in them. I decided to give the anime a shot.
The anime club started off with a bang. 17 people showed up to our first showing to watch Full Metal Alchemist. More importantly, it has held consistent. Over the last 6 months, I have averaged 12 people per showing. When I started doing the anime club, we were using Movie Licensing USA, which has a handful of anime titles on its base list and for a small fee gives access to their expanded anime collection. The list included many classics of the genre. However, our library has a policy against showing rated-R movies. Once we ruled these out, I found the list to be short and somewhat dated. I figured I could do a year worth of once-a-month programming, at this point. The teens were still showing up, but not the 17 that I had at my first showing. 7 would come one month, 8 the next, then down to 4. Then I heard about Crunchyroll.
Crunchyroll is basically Netflix for anime. Their outreach program with libraries allows the higher quality and ad-free streams of their videos (www.crunchyroll.com/outreach). There is no cost for this; you just have to do at least 3 showings quarterly and submit a feedback form. The selection is mostly shows and not movies. Also, a vast majority of them are subtitled and not dubbed. For promoting the program, Crunchyroll allows use of the film title and images for use both in and out of the library building. They only ask that you use images found on their website. The list of shows by popularity is a good starting point for programming.
Doing these programs for a little over a year now, I have a few tips that will help the program run without a hitch. When possible, use an Ethernet cable instead of WiFi. The connection will run smoother. With the premium account, you get access to 1080p quality videos, which is great if you have a good computer and a strong internet connection. If you are getting lag though, try the 720p by clicking the option under the video. I like to start each video and pause it for a few minutes before each episode. This lets the video buffer and people can get snacks or go to the restroom during this time.
The last tip I have is that if you have multiple library branches like our system has, I suggest having one central account and e-mailing one person with the feedback questions who will then submit the feedback form. This will make it easy to count how many Crunchyroll programs you have done and ensure that you reach your quarterly quota to keep your account active. We have had multiple librarians streaming from the single account at one time and it did not affect anything.
So now you have some ideas on how to manage your collection of anime and run a program with it. I urge you to take advantage of the opportunity this genre of film offers the library. So far it has been the most consistent way I have found to bring in our tough demographic. More than that though, it exposes them to another culture and different storytelling methods. Plus it gives excellent opportunities to promote the collection! “Hey, I know you like watching these in subtitles. Wouldn’t it be cool if you used our online language learning tools to pick up some Japanese?”
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.