Monday, October 21, 2013

Unprogramming with Teens: Anime Club

One of the longest-running, most successful teen programs at my branch also happens to be an excellent example of teen-driven unprogramming: Anime Club.

Once a month, teens interested in anime and/or manga--and there are a TON of them--converge on the library meeting room for two hours of socializing and communally enjoying their shared passion. Within that two-hour space, Anime Club hits all facets of unprogramming with teens:

  • Ice Breaker -- Sometimes the program leader (typically my teen person, Angie) leads a game as an icebreaker, but sometimes the teens are already comfortably chatty and so the program opens with fevered discussion of recently-discovered anime series. On occasions when Anime Club includes cosplay, the ice breaker takes the form of a cosplay show and tell.
  • Library Tie-in -- The library has lots of manga options in the young adult collections, and often the newest additions to the collection will be featured in Anime Club.
  • Stations of Stuff -- The crux of Anime Club is viewing anime, be it in the form of full-length films, episodes from series (both from the library's collection and using free online samples deemed appropriate by a few key club members), and online clips. Often there are other activities, too, including anime coloring activities, making candy sushi, and using elements of the Anime Club Kit sponsored by our Friends of the Library group. This kit includes several manga puzzles from Tokyopop, manga playing cards and card games, and a guide for creating manga.
  • Social Time -- As with many teen programs, there isn't designated, separate social time; instead, teens converse throughout the program.
  • Food -- Anime Club at our branch necessitates two foods on a semi-regular basis: Poky and Ramen. See also: the candy sushi mentioned in Stations of Stuff.
Anime Club takes place the same time every month, and this regular offering has allowed a core group of between 8-12 teens to attend pretty consistently. After district-wide teen events, like the lock-in, our numbers get a boost from teens who frequent other branches that don't have their own Anime Clubs.

Anime Club has built a great camaraderie among the teen library users who might otherwise not find a niche outside of the manga section. Their enthusiasm for anime, and their suggestions for great films and series to consider for inclusion in the library's collection, really carries the endeavor and ensures that they feel a sense of ownership and belonging in the program. For relatively little staff and program cost, that's a lot of engagement by teens. That's the hallmark of a great unprogram.

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