Masuchika, Glenn. Considerations for collecting Japanese anime for academic librariesCollection and Curation, 39(2), 53-56.

The idea that academic libraries can include Japanese animation in their collections of films and television series is neither new nor controversial. The purpose of an academic library is to serve its user community, and to facilitate effective teaching and research – and providing access to Japanese animation, such as, for example, to support the students enrolled in a class like “Anime: Masterworks of Japanese Animation” (Middlebury College, Fall 2018) or “Anime Cinema” (University of North Florida, Spring 2019) absolutely fits into this purpose. But, with literally thousands of anime films and series available for purchase, how can an academic librarian actually go about selecting particular anime to add to a particular collection?

A standard approach would to be to turn to some sort of pre-compiled subject guide. However, the two that cover anime to any extent (Understanding Manga and Anime, Robin Brenner, 2007, and Mostly Manga: A Genre Guide to Popular Manga, Manhwa, Manhua, and Anime, Elizabeth F.S. Kalen, 2012) are at this point fairly dated – and, more importantly, are designed primarily for public libraries. The 2014 article Bringing anime to academic libraries: A recommended core collection is a start, but it too can use an update. Instead, Glenn Masuchika takes a broader approach – a set of “considerations”, or simply concepts, factors and features to keep in mind when deciding to purchase particular anime titles for an academic library.  

The first of these considerations may not be something that a non-librarian would ever think about, or, for that matter, even have any reason to think about. Academic libraries purchase materials based on defined and developed collection acquisition policies. If a particular library’s acquisition policy simply has no place for visual materials, then the question of whether that library can even think about buying anime DVD’s will never come up to begin with. Another consideration that the author considers similarly critical is that the academic institution that the library supports actually needs anime; it may not be enough for a librarian to decide that it should have anime DVD’s in the collection – especially given that collection acquisition budgets are always fixed, and any item that it added to the collection means another one that is not.

Beyond these basic ones, the essay points out several other important factors – the basic nature of Japanese animation as both an art form and a commercial product that is composed of both individual films and television series, as well as the sometimes-complex relationships between them, to say nothing of the broader “media mix” interplay that can also bring in manga, and potentially novels, video games, and commodities. It also raises a unique and interesting point – as availability on DVD becomes only one of the ways of getting access to anime, and not even the leading one, compared to access to streaming services, will managing a library’s “anime collection” actually involve also managing a subscription to Netflix, Crunchyroll, Funimation, Hidive, and other services in the same way that libraries now manage subscriptions to general and subject-specific article databases. 

Ultimately, and in fact, as suggested by its title, Considerations for collecting anime for academic libraries is an essay, not a research paper; its main purpose is to present broad ideas rather than a specific case study. Having said that, in my opinion, a demonstration of  how these ideas are actually being put into practice would have made it a lot stronger and more useful to readers – and I look forward to seeing a case study of a library that has successfully assembled a Japanese animation collection to support the students and faculty that it serves! 

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