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Seattle Library Offers Streaming Video

At the library, Hoopla provides free, online access to about 10,000 videos and more than 250,000 music albums.

by / July 26, 2013

After months of testing, the Seattle Public Library is launching a free, Netflix-like streaming media service, The Seattle Times reported.

Called Hoopla, the service provides online access to about 10,000 videos and more than 250,000 music albums that are accessible through a browser or an app. After signing up, users enter their library account information, and can then browse and check out material directly from the site.

After several years of discussions about digital distribution options with Midwest Tape, a distribution company that owns Hoopla and provides DVDs, CDs and other physical media to libraries, the Seattle Public Library began testing Hoopla in February, Kirk Blankenship, electronic resources librarian told The Times.

“It’s been a successful experience for us; we haven’t had anything that quite works on this level,” he said. “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.”

Seattle has budgeted about $1,000 per month for the services, so if usage surges, the library may take steps to limit it, Blankenship said, adding that demand may be kept in check by the material available on Hoopla. Because it’s a limited selection and doesn’t include new releases, it’s unlikely to see the same demand as DVDs, which at some branches account for up to 50 percent of the circulation, he said.

About 80 percent of Hoopla’s catalog is not available on Netflix, and includes niches such as educational videos on SAT preparation, and preschool math and grammar videos, said company founder Jeff Jankowski, adding that the video library is about to increase by 50 percent, with 5,000 more titles coming soon.

Library patrons will pay for Hoopla indirectly, through costs incurred by the libraries. Rentals made with Hoopla cost libraries an average of $1.70 apiece, and users are limited to 20 rentals per month.

Hoopla is starting with about 10 library systems nationally, but expects to reach 100 by the end of the year. In addition to Seattle, the initial participating libraries are in Los Angeles and Orange County, Calif., and Salt Lake County, Utah.

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