Library E-card
by Eric Lyons - Wednesday, March 26th, 2014
Technology allows digital downloads

Overdue library books may be a thing of the past.

Libraries in Central New York have recently started to offer digital download programs as a free supplementary service to library patrons. The Northern Onondaga Public Library, in Cicero, offers cardholders access to programs such as Overdrive eBooks, 3M Cloud, Freegal and Hoopla Digital.

These tools allow people to instantly download eBooks, audio books, MP3s, and movies to almost any digital device. Customers can read, listen and watch the books, MP3s and films without having to step foot inside the library and without running the risk of having to pay a late fee.

The programs limit access to the products to a specific period, usually a few weeks. When the book or movie is due, it is just deactivated from the user’s account. Besides preventing the risk of late fees, the service brings an end to being put on a waiting list if an item is checked out; an unlimited number of users can access the same material simultaneously.

The newest service–Hoopla Digital, a free video download program similar to Netflix–went live for Northern Onondaga Public Library cardholders on Valentine’s Day. In the first month, 314 library patrons registered for the service and have checked out more than 700 titles.

“It’s just the way people are getting their stuff these days,” said Kate McCaffrey, director of the library. “It also attracts a lot of people who can’t come into the library or don’t have the time.”

Hoopla was released in July and is used by more than 1,400 libraries worldwide. The service offers more than 160,000 music albums, 22,000 audio books and 10,000 feature-length films.

The service doesn’t offer users access to the latest blockbusters, but it provides them with a wide array of older titles and some alternatives to recent releases. McCaffery said you can’t get 12 Years a Slave on the service, but you can download Solomon Northup’s Odyssey, a 1984 made-for-TV movie based on Northup’s book.

Hoopla is a brand of the Midwest Tape Company, one of the largest library media suppliers in the world. Michael Manon, chief brand manager for Hoopla Digital, said Midwest Tape started to develop digital download services for library patrons about six years ago after receiving many requests.

“It is the next natural evolution for libraries,” Manon said.

Mackenzie Lynch, who got a library card to the Northern Onondaga Library last week when she needed a book for class, has not used the service yet but plans to in the future.

“Electronically renting books and movies takes the risk {of having to pay a late fee and the customer not returning the item} off both the library and the user,” she said.

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