Hoopla at Pelham Library

Library CEO Kirk Weaver and Technical Services Manager Jo-Anne Teeuwsen with their pick of hoopla-enable devices. VOICE PHOTO

Netflix-style streaming service launched March 1


The Pelham Public Library began its participation in “hoopla” last Thursday, with March 1 marking the first day that library cardholders had access to the online service. Library CEO Kirk Weaver said that he and the rest of the library team were looking forward to the service being available.

“Everyone will be able to borrow four items per month from hoopla—it has movies, tv shows, music, comics, eBooks, and audiobooks,” said Weaver.

Hoopla is accessible online through a web browser, and it also has mobile applications for Apple, Android, and Amazon devices.

“Different types of content have different lengths of borrowing time,” said Jo-Anne Teeuwsen, the library’s technical services manager, explaining that borrowed movies will disappear after a few days, while books and audiobooks will be accessible for three weeks.

“This is part of our overall effort to use technology and make use of our collection,” said Weaver.

Hoopla will replace Freegal, the system formally used by the library. Freegal was a music-based service, whereas Hoopla’s Netflix-style interface offers more than music. Library cardholders in Pelham also have access to Overdrive, a province-wide co-op through which people can borrow eBooks.

“The problem with Overdrive is that there might be just a few copies for the whole province,” said Weaver. “So it takes a really long time to get ahold of one of them.”

That eBooks—which are merely digital documents that could be duplicated instantly and free of charge—should be limited in supply seems counterintuitive. But, as Weaver said, copyright agreements prevent libraries from making all eBooks freely available in unlimited quantities.

“Hoopla is free for residents to use, but the library will pay a per-use charge,” said Weaver. “So it will get more expensive for us, the more that people use it, but right now we’re just hoping that people do get into it.”

Teeuewsen said that the sign-up process for the service is simple.

“You just go to the website or download the app—and we’ve put hoopla as the first banner on our site. There you can find ‘Pelham Library’ and enter in your library card number and your PIN, which should be the last four digits of your phone number,” she said.

Weaver added that the library will be helping residents create their accounts on hoopla.

“We have a co-op student from E. L. Crossley now and he’s really techie,” said Weaver. “People can walk in between ten and four-thirty on Mondays and Fridays and he’ll answer any questions you have and solve and tech problems. And if he doesn’t know, he says that he’ll find a way to figure it out.”

Weaver said that he hopes hoopla will reach some residents who aren’t frequent users of the library.

“You only have to come into the library once to set up your card, and after that all of the borrowing from hoopla can be done at home,” he said. “Now obviously…we’d prefer it if people still came into the library, but this provides an option.”

“Audiobooks are a big thing for travellers,” said Teeuwsen. “People can get an audiobook through this and then go away on vacation with it.”

Hoopla allows users to download content to their device—provided it has enough storage space—and then access that content when out of wi-fi range. This means that hoopla can be used on car rides or commutes on public transportation, though the number of wi-fi free areas of the world are growing fewer.

While the library also has hardware on offer—Weaver mentioned the ten Chromebooks that are available for use inside the library—hoopla’s software-only nature means that it can be updated, and that new material can always be added.

“The content on it changes all the time, based on the licensing agreements that hoopla has,” he said.

The company is based in the United States and has contracts with major film studios, including Disney, Warner Brothers, and Lionsgate. It is used by numerous public libraries in Canada, including Toronto, Ottawa, and Hamilton.

A number of years ago, eBooks experienced a stratospheric rise in sales—from 69 million in the United States in 2010 to 242 million in 2013. The numbers have trailed off slightly in the past couple of years, but libraries are still investing resources in the technology.

Audiobooks have also taken off in popularity. 2016 figures from the United States showed an 18 percent growth over 2015 figures, bringing total sales to $2.1 billion.

A poll by Edison Research reported that 24 percent of Americans listened to at least a single audiobook, with listeners attributing their affection for audiobooks to the possibility of multitasking and to audiobooks’ portability.

And the popularity of streaming services indicates that hoopla is serving the interests of the market—a 2017 Pew survey found that six in ten adults younger than 30 primarily watched television shows not on television, but on the web.

Jeff Jankowski, Vice President of Midwest Tape, Hoopla’s parent company, told Los Angeles Magazine in 2013 that he sees hoopla as complimentary to Netflix and Hulu.

“With the audiobooks and music, we’re actually offering more options,” he said.

He also touted the presence of some content on hoopla not on other streaming services, such as parent tutorials and SAT preparatory videos.

Some research has suggested that reading from a screen differs from reading from regular paper. A 2016 study out of Dartmouth College surveyed 300 adults and found that screen-reading was better for solidifying details, while paper was superior for readers’ understanding of abstract ideas.

“Some of our previous work showed that people had a hard time seeing ‘big picture’ information when they did activities on an electronic device compared to paper,” said co-author Geoff Kaufmann to the Huffington Post.

The study concluded that it may be best to access information from both so as to obtain the respective benefits of each.

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