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Streaming Video in Public Libraries
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Posted On July 1, 2014
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HPL allows four checkouts per library card per month for all types of digital files in hoopla to keep its costs down. “This is new to us so we have to kind of see where it goes, and we can re-evaluate that decision once we have a little bit more time under our belts,” says Marianne Lorio, HPL’s electronic resources specialist.

What to Watch

OverDrive and hoopla both offer mainstream fare, including movies and TV series from Starz Media. “Keep in mind that because of the deals that were dealt [by OverDrive and hoopla] with the studios, you’re not going to see something that’s just barely been released on iTunes,” Lorio explains. “It’s going to be stuff that’s a little bit older.”

The most checked-out movies from hoopla include Intolerable Cruelty, Pride & Prejudice (the 2005 version), and The Big Lebowski. Patrons also gravitate toward the available children’s movies, such as LEGO: The Adventures of Clutch Powers.

OverDrive’s most popular titles include Silver Linings Playbook, The Deep Blue Sea, Django Unchained, and the Portlandia TV series, as well as exercise videos.

At PPL, patrons are using hoopla to stream about 4,000 to 5,000 titles a month. “For [having it] just a couple of months, it’s been amazingly popular,” says Thacker. “We don’t have nearly as many titles available for OverDrive, but we’re loaning about 1,000 a month.”

Advice From the Trenches

“I would advise libraries interested in signing up with hoopla or OverDrive to have a robust marketing plan in place to let people know that your library is going to be offering this new type of media,” Murphy says. Lorio suggests working closely with the library’s preferred streaming service to do the promotion.

Lorio also suggests that library staff members should become comfortable with streaming video so they can answer patron questions. “We have a staff-training portal where we put up cheat sheets on how to use things, videos on how to do certain things, recordings of training webinars. So it’s a place that not only our staff now but future staff can go and learn more,” she says.

Even if libraries subscribe to a streaming video service, they still have to purchase DVDs because the newest movies and TV series aren’t available. “Jump in and see where customer demand takes you,” says Holly Varley, materials selection and acquisition manager at the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County in Ohio. “This won’t replace DVD purchasing for the time being; but because we strive to expand digital content in all formats, streaming video is an essential piece of fulfilling that strategic goal.”

Varley cautions that libraries shouldn’t try to compete with Netflix for content, because they will never be able to keep up. Edson agrees: “Actually, I’m good with that because when I think of our library mission, we want to make a broader access available. We’re not Netflix; we’re something a little bit different.”

Lend You a Roku

Last year, the Ephrata (Pa.) Public Library began lending out Roku streaming video devicesto its patrons. Executive director Penny Talbert chose Roku because she uses one in her personal life, as do other library staff members.

Technology manager Laura Brandt locked down each Roku so patrons can’t purchase items from the device using the library’s account, but there is still plenty of content available. Streaming channels include Netflix, Hulu Plus, PBS, YouTube, and Openfilm. According to Talbert, the costs associated with the Roku service are minimal and the library hasn’t had problems with damage or theft.

Patrons must be 18 or older to check out a Roku for the 7-day loan period. Along with the device, they get a remote control, an HDMI cable, a power cord, and an instruction card which all must be returned to a librarian in person, not in a book drop.

Talbert says the three devices the library has are in constant circulation: “For many, it’s a way to preview the product before they buy it. For others, it’s a great way to have a huge selection of content in one easy device.” She cautions that Rokus should only be suggested to patrons who have technical knowledge of how wireless networks and HDMI inputs work. To help reduce confusion, Ephrata provides a tutorial video for patrons who need help connecting the device to their TV.

“The most difficult part of the whole program is trying to explain to people what they are,” says Talbert. She suggests having each library staff member take home a Roku before implementing a lending program, so they can confidently answer patron questions. “It is much easier to describe something if you’ve used it,” she notes.


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Brandi Scardilli is the editor of NewsBreaks and managing editor of Information Today.

Email Brandi Scardilli

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