Free Anime at the Library

As Zach mentions in another article, there are many ways you can watch anime online for free. He briefly talks about using public libraries as a source for anime. Well, I am going expand on that theme and tell you how to find anime for free using various library resources in this article.


WorldCat SearchWorldCat is a library catalog that, well, covers libraries from across the world. It lets you search for anime, manga, and other books based on your location. You can search for DVDs, Books, CDs and more from the homepage. After you search and click on what you are looking for, you can narrow down results based on your location.

Most libraries are involved in inter-library loans. This lets you request materials and have them delivered to your library. Typically this is limited to libraries within your state or municipality. Searching for “anime” in DVDs gives you 82, 527 hits.  Some libraries still have anime on VHS!

Cowboy Bebop WorldCatThe problem with WorldCat is its scope. You may be able to find anime you want to watch, but your library may not be able to get the item. Most states in the United States has an entity called a state library. This is the main library responsible for all other libraries in your home state. This is a good place to start your search for anime that can be sent to your local library. Here is a list of state library websites.  Each library website is different. Libraries all have different collections too. A local librarian can help you with your search.

Library Catalogs

Most libraries have online catalogs you can use to search for items in your local library system. My local library’s catalog gives me 442 results when I search for “anime.” Titles include Hellsing, Angel Tales,  and Neon Genesis Evangelion. The problem with library selection is how they tend to be “spotty.” Often, libraries will only have a few DVDs of a series. Those are also out of sequence in many cases.

Online Library Catalog - AnimeLibrary catalogs are problematic with some searches. My “anime” DVD search also returned “Dora the Explorer” and other unrelated titles. Library catalogs are best if you have a specific series in mind. It also helps to search for the title of the anime by surrounding it with quotation marks like this: “spice and wolf.”

A good library catalog will let you track your requests and even tell you when they are available to pick up. This varies based on what system your library is using.

Finally, be sure to ask your librarian to purchase anime and manga. Librarians are receptive to both genres. Our job is to bring you the information you want. You may see some resistance to some explicit manga and anime; that mainly depends on your community and the library’s funding structure.

It is easy to forget that the library down the street can be our best source for free anime.  Most guides focus on where you can find anime for free online and forget about libraries. There are some problems with what libraries offer:

  1. Anime tends to be dubbed in English.
  2. Anime series are often missing volumes.
  3. The selection tends to be older titles.
  4. It is inconvenient to have to visit the library compared to watching online.

Despite the problems, libraries are a great way to access anime and manga for free. Libraries have embraced manga wholeheartedly because it is a great way for us to reach teens. Teens are hard to get into the library. If manga, anime, and light novels encourage you visit the library, we will do what we can to provide it. As I mentioned, most librarians are receptive to requests. Talk to your children’s librarian and provide them with a list. Most libraries put children’s librarians in charge of anime and manga. They are considered young adult materials. You might be surprised just how much a library will get behind anime and manga collections. Be sure to use your library’s inter-library loan system as well. The system helps fill out gaps in your library’s collection.

What is more, using the library for your free anime and manga also supports the industry. The US library system spends a LOT of money on materials. Those dollars can go toward the anime/manga industry and encourage them to release more titles here in the US. You get your manga and anime for free, the library sees more patron traffic, and the anime industry sees more financial gains. Everybody wins!