Libraries taking a leap into the future with streaming movies and music

The Right Click
Station to Station - The Prelinger Library - San Francisco - Station to Station
The Prelinger Library is a gem. Founded in 2004 and operated by Rick Prelinger and Megan Shaw Prelinger, the library houses over 50,000 books, periodicals and pieces of print ephemera, the collection specializes in materials and works not typically found in public libraries. The public library is privately funded in San Francisco.

Ten years ago, when you told someone you were going to visit your local library, it involved walking out your door. And if your library carried movies on DVD, it was probably a big deal.

Now, libraries across North America are trying to keep up with the times by offering media in a whole new way: through streaming services online.

Much like how customers access Netflix, you can use a computer or mobile device to browse the library’s collection, select the movie or TV show you’d like to watch, or music or audiobook you’d like to listen to, and you can start streaming the content for free. As with all library materials, you’ve got access to the material for a set period of time before you have to ‘return’ it (your access to the item expires).

The service is provided by Hoopla Digital, an e-borrowing service that gives patrons with a library card to one of the participating library systems access to movies, TV shows, music, ebooks and audiobooks. Every time a patron borrows an item, the library pays Hoopla a fee for the use of the media.

[ Related: How to borrow ebooks from the local library on all your devices ]

While many libraries have been loaning ebooks to patrons digitally for some time now, the movie and music service is still relatively new. The Associated Press reports that the system launched with 20 library systems in May, with plans to expand to 100 by the end of the year.

Currently, most of those library systems are in the U.S., but the library system in Hamilton, Ontario has been working hard to stay relevant as media goes increasingly digital. The Hamilton Spectator reports that the library system in that city began offering the Hoopla service to patrons in August, making it one of only two Canadian library systems to be doing so. Patrons in Hamilton have access to other e-services, too, like Freegal, which lets patrons download and keep three digital songs each week.

While libraries are unlikely to give up physical media any time soon due to the current licensing costs of digital media, the blend of old and new technology is helping to keep libraries a viable resource for everyone.

"I think it provides a great free source of entertainment for families who can't afford to get a movie for family night or for teenagers to have access to that album they can't afford," Jamie Koepnick-Herrera, a Seattle library patron who just gained access to Hoopla, said to AP.

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