Netflix, Hulu and other online streaming companies have already rendered trips to the video store—or even to your own mailbox—a quaint thing of the past. Now some public libraries are following suit, allowing patrons to access a full catalog of movies and music without ever having to leave the sofa.
In late July, the Seattle Public Library debuted a service called Hoopla, providing free online access to roughly 10,000 videos and more than 250,000 music albums. Movies and TV shows are available for three days; music is available for a week. Unlike most digital e-book rentals at libraries, there’s an unlimited number of copies, so patrons don’t have to wait for a particular title to become available.
“It’s been a successful experience for us; we haven’t had anything that quite works on this level,” Seattle electronic resources librarian Kirk Blankenship told The Seattle Times. “Most of our users have experience with commercial services and have a certain standard they expect to see, and I think Hoopla does that in a library setting.”
Library patrons won’t be binge-watching Scandal or the latest season of Mad Men. Roughly 80 percent of Hoopla’s catalog isn’t available on Netflix, and it doesn’t include any new releases. But for patrons who want to browse more obscure titles, as well as educational fare such as grammar videos and SAT prep sessions, the new service will be a welcome addition to their entertainment options.
Other city library systems are launching similar services. Los Angeles, Orange County, Calif., and Salt Lake County, Utah, were also included in Hoopla’s initial launch, and the company expects to reach 100 library systems nationwide by the end of this year. Other libraries, including Austin, Texas, and Arlington, Va., have been introducing a similar streaming service called IndieFlix, which focuses on independent films and shorts.