During the early Anime boom (bubble) after the year 2000, it seemed that libraries were collecting anime on DVD at an impressive rate. I watched most of Last Exile from DVDs checked out from Houston Public Library (they have since been withdrawn from the collection). But this trend has (unfortunately) begun to taper off. I asked a friend who works in collection development why this is the case, and she said that anime on DVD is hard for some librarians unfamiliar with it to figure out where it belongs in the collection. If they put it with children's animated films (usually a mistake), there are frequent parent complaints. Even if it gets put in the adult collection AV section, teenagers find it and depending on the content (violence, ecchi) again there are complaints, etc. It's very hard, my friend said, to figure out the ratings and age appropriateness for Anime titles, so for the most part our library just doesn't bother anymore. At least we are more bold when it comes to manga, and we do have a fairly impressive manga collection throughout the system, including one or two BL titles I noticed. This is much better than the Sikeston Public Library in SE Missouri that I visited after Thanksgiving a few years ago and found they had ZERO manga at all in their library. When I asked about this, the person at the reference desk said it "Just wasn't very popular here" and directed me to the local comic book store down the road. I found this very dubious and wonder if this wasn't a decision made higher up by an even more conservative library board than our own back in Texas.
When you do find Anime in a Library DVD collection, it is often a nostalgia trip, as you see lots of titles from the early 2000s, but few if any from more recent years. This was the case the last time I dropped by the Rosenberg Library on nearby Galveston Island last October.
(actual photo of the Rosenberg Library DVD collection from a few years ago; most of these titles were present last October as well)
One area where libraries have become an unexpected source of often old school anime is where they have begun to expand their digital holdings with partnered streaming services like Freegal and Hoopla Digital.
Yesterday, I obtained a Library card with the neighboring Brazoria County Public Library system at their West Pearland branch closest to where I live. Library cards are open to all Texas residents with valid photo ID and proof of current mailing address (like a recent utility bill). With that Library card barcode, I was able to gain access to their electronic resources which includes a digital streaming service that was new to me called "Freegal", which apparently started out as being related to music, mostly, but recently began offering access to movies on streaming. They divided movies up into categories, and the anime movies were tossed in with other animation. There weren't many titles, to be sure, but I did find most of the Ghost in the Shell "recap" movies and Solid State Society. More importantly I found and watched the Macross II movie which dates from 1994 and is actually something like 6 OVAs stitched together as a feature film that is over 2 hours long. The library only offers the English dub of this movie but I sat and watched and enjoyed it late last night into the wee hours. As Macross movies go, I have only ever seen Macross Plus, which I watched on a different library streaming service, called Hoopla Digital. I have seen the original OVAs in English, and the recap movie in Japanese.
I already have library cards (and access to digital services like Hoopla Digital) from Harris County Public Library, Houston Public Library, Fort Bend County Library, Rosenberg Library and now Brazoria County as well. When I returned from Brazoria County Public Library's West Pearland branch, I had lunch out in Sugar Land, listening to a favorite podcast, then I came home and set up a new Hoopla account with Brazoria County Public Library and began a binge watch session to finish up Season 1 of Aria The Animation (and start & finish Ep.1 of Aria The Natural, i.e. season 2 of this series). I also finished up Season 1 of Emma: A Victorian Romance and started (and finished) Ep.1 of Season 2 of the same show. This one I've heard jokingly called the "Jane Austen of Anime", but I really do love it. It's a shame it never got an English dub, but the sub version is fine and it gives me all the same "feels" as an episode of Downton Abbey. I also made progress in getting further along in The Rose of Versailles. That this series from the 1970s served as the artistic inspiration for later Revolutionary Girl Utena is pretty obvious. But I also get some nostalgia for L'Chevalier d'Eon watching The Rose of Versailles as well. Anyway, yes, I managed to binge-watch all TEN (10) Hoopla Digital checkouts open to me in a single day and it was glorious. I look forward to getting on with Season 2 of both Emma and Aria but I only recommend Emma as a viable candidate for binge-watching. Aria is more of a palette-cleanser slice of life dose of cuteness. I only binge-watched as much as I did of that show to finish out the first season. I don't recommend it, as it gets to be rather a bit much after more than 2 episodes in one sitting. At least The Rose of Versailles also lends itself to binge-watching, too; like Emma it is also an fictional historical drama from a specific time and place.
Fair warning, this next section CONTAINS SPOILERS: I really do like Emma very much, though I feel like the creators took certain liberties with their depiction of Victorian England. Prince Hakim would definitely have worn out his welcome and been kindly (but firmly) shown the door by now. Moreover, I'm not sure that even Indian nobility would be treated all that well outside of India proper. British Victorians would've been far more blatantly racist, if the recent PBS drama Indian Summers is any guide. That show is set in the 1930s, though one imagines the 1880s would not have been any better and possibly quite worse. Minor historical quibble aside, the show does depict class consciousness and class antagonisms fairly well, though again, they make light of what would've become an actual scandal in Victorian London, namely Jones getting locked in with Emma at the Crystal Palace overnight. The rumors alone (think of the American pop song "Wake up, Little Suzie" from the 1950s!) would've been enough to destroy Emma and make her unemployable as a maid going forward. Again, just look at attitudes about dating and sex in PBS's Downton Abbey for comparison. Yes, that show is from the 1910s and 1920s but the attitudes and mores one imagines would only have been more strict in the 1880s and 1890s. Still, that Crystal Palace episode was really sweet and the first season's emotional climax for William Jones and Emma (their first kiss). I also question the depiction of how they portray events unfolding after the untimely death of Emma's employer, the Governess. This forces Emma to decide to leave London in search of new employment on a country estate. I find it curious, since the Governess was a widow with no children of her own. Unless she was massively in debt and her home was to be sold off at auction to satisfy various creditors, I can't imagine the Governess being so cruel or so thoughtless as to not leave the property to Emma in her Last Will and Testament. There were no other living relatives to inherit the house so far as we know. All this is left unexplained and Emma simply loses the roof over her head in London without explanation so that the story can send her out into the English countryside to continue the narrative. Emma had given some thought to returning home to hear seaside village, but as we see in flashback, it wasn't a particularly happy life there and there's really nothing to go back to. I have to give Emma (the series) props for being brave enough to skirt the edge of going to some really dark places. Young Emma is kidnapped and nearly sold to a brothel at the age of 14 and could have become a London prostitute but for her quick wits and blind luck, escaping her captors to wander the cruel streets of London for a time, begging for food or work, selling flowers for pennies, etc, until finally being hired on as a garden attendant by a prominent household, then hired away sometime later by the governess as a house maid when she turned 15. The Governess sees intelligence and potential in Emma's eyes and wants to see what education can do for the young waif. Emma learns practical skills as a maid, but also learns to read and appreciate literature at the tutelage of the Governess. Emma is 20 years old at the start of the narrative, as she often remarks how it was "only 5 years ago", at age 15, that she came to live with the Governess as her maid. William Jones has been attracted to Emma for quite some time but his father and family do not approve of their relationship. Prince Hakim also finds Emma attractive but ends his flirtation with her out of respect for William's feelings. He wishes William would just act on his feelings and continue an active pursuit of a relationship with Emma, but this is easy for a foreign royal to say; much harder for a nouveau riche landed gentry to pull off. The Governess does what she can to encourage this budding young love despite their class differences. The Governess was William's private tutor from an early age until he grew up and she finally retired. I look forward to seeing where things go in Season 2.
I'm looking forward for all my Hoopla Digital checkouts to refresh in February 2016 so I can continue these journeys. I feel like this is the future of Japanese Anime in public libraries, e.g. increasingly as part of a working public library's digital holdings rather than part of its physical media collection. And as such, Libraries are becoming an unexpected legal source of a lot of "old school" and very out of print "classic" anime titles from the 1990s in particular. I've watched so much Central Park Media releases I otherwise would've missed thanks to sources like Hoopla Digital.
In the meantime, I'm making increased use of advert-supported Crunchyroll and my paid account with The Anime Network and of course Netflix. I've let my FUNimation account expire for the time being but plan to renew it once the newest batch of Fairy Tail dubs drop & street. On physical media, I just finished a binge of the Slayers prequel movies & OVAs and am halfway through The Record of Lodoss War original OVAs. On Netflix, I've been enjoying the hell out of Seven Deadly Sins, engaging in some binge-watches of that show as well. Was about to do so last night but stopped after 2 episodes to squeeze in the over-long Macross II movie and test out the Freegal service for the first time. The whole Macross franchise is really kind of silly, with its hippy-dippy "power of love and singing" vibe, but you just gotta roll with it, it is what it is. But in any case I still prefer the English dubbed Macross Plus OVAs in terms of story and in terms of superior animation. Anyway, that's what this anime fan has been up to lately.