Sunday, September 15, 2013

Otakus Unite!: On Planning and Running My Anime Club

Being a bit of an anime geek myself, I've always wanted to start a club for teens at my library to share that love. Last fall, I was finally able to take the plunge and do it with the help of lots of advice from other amazing teen librarians from listservs and blogs. After a year of trying new things I feel like I might finally have the hang of it. Here's what I've learned:

1. Talk to your teens: I know this one is probably obvious, but your anime club isn't about you, it's about the teens. Find out what they would like to do, what anime they would like to watch. Let them vote on things and give them a voice. But always be the guiding hand that has the final say. I learned the hard way that if I give my teens too much choice that they can't decide on anything. But letting them choose the name of your club or design the logo empowers them and gives them a feeling of ownership over the club.

2. You don't have to be an expert at all things anime: Even if you aren't an avid anime fan like I am, you can still host a club for teens. There are a wealth of blogs, presentations, and Pinterest boards out there with ideas that are easily implemented. Here's my anime Pinterest board, for example. I've also learned so much from my teens in the past year, such as what anime and manga title are popular right now.

3. Apply for screen permissions well in advance: Most companies take a few weeks to get back to you so plan early! What I try to do is take one afternoon to request screening permission for several different titles all at once. A helpful guide from Right Stuf on who to contact for permissions can be found here.

You can also purchase the anime license from Movie Licensing USA. It costs about $75 per year.

Another option is to utilize the site You can email them and they will usually give you a free premium account to stream the anime they offer. The nice thing about Crunchyroll is that screening permission is included and they offer a lot of the latest anime from Japan.

4. You don't have to over-plan your meetings: I often worried that if I didn't plan every minute of the meetings the teens would get bored. Boy was I mistaken! One month, I decided I wanted to do a stamp art activity. I spent a good amount of time and money prepping: cutting foam containers and cardstock, purchasing supplies, and setting up the room. When the teens arrived I showed them how to do the activity and then put on some anime. They spent so much time chatting and watching the anime that half them forgot to do the craft I worked so hard on! Lesson learned. Most likely your anime club teens will just want to hang out, talk, and watch anime.

So here's my current meeting schedule: We meet twice a month on Tuesdays from 3:30 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. At the first meeting, we just watch anime and have a snack. I also always set out paper, pencils, and colored pencils for the teens to free draw while watching the anime. For the second meeting, we'll do some sort of activity or craft. Past activities have included:

  • Stamp Art (see the link above)
  • A mini-cosplay panel
  • Drawing workshop
  • Shrinky Dink keychains (this one was super easy and popular!) 
  • Rhythm Heaven Fever gaming on the Wii - This game is really fun and really cheap. It's $11 on Amazon. One caveat: You have to unlock the previous challenge before you can move on, so I sat at home one night with my friend who is an expert gamer and unlocked everything before the program.
  • Anime Couples Trivia - Every time a teen answered correctly, I gave them a piece of Hi-Chew candy. I gave out Pocky to the winner which was the person with the most Hi-Chews. 
  • Kirigami 
5. If you feed them, they will come: This is a mainstay mantra of teen services, but it's true. Our club meets right after school, so I try to offer some sort of snack and beverage for them at each meeting.

6. Have fun!: Embrace the learning experiences. It's okay for an activity or craft to fail. Most likely, the teens don't care. They are just happy to gather together and hang out with other teens who are passionate about anime. Any sort of activity is just a bonus. And when all else fails, just throw on the Caramell Dance! (This is a sure-fire way to get your teens all together.)

Do any of you host an anime club for teens? Any tips that I missed? Leave them in the comments!

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