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No more waiting lists, no late fees

Digital library service offers quick access to audiobooks, movies, tunes

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In the digital library world, there are no more wait lists and no more late fees.

These are the selling features for the newest services available at the Winnipeg library system. Launched last week, the library system is offering content from the online service Hoopla Digital to its patrons, allowing library cardholders to borrow music, movies, television shows and audiobooks like they were physically taking out the hard copy of those items.

Theresa Lomas, administrative co-ordinator of information and virtual services for the Winnipeg system, said the library was looking for a service that could offer streaming music and video for about a year before finally choosing the Hoopla service.

"There wasn't a lot available out there," Lomas said Tuesday. "We then saw what Hoopla was doing about a year ago and we started monitoring what the content looked like. It seemed like it would be a good fit."

It's turned out to be a great fit, in fact. Lomas said the initial response from users at the libraries has been nothing but positive, with the streaming music option really resonating with subscribers. Prior to Hoopla, library-based music lovers could only turn to Naxos, the popular classical and jazz music subscription service. With Hoopla, artists such as Lorde and Eminem, or compilations like the Frozen movie soundtrack, are now available.

"We found that a lot of the Top 40 and popular current music was the difference for us," Lomas said, adding that the Hoopla catalogue is constantly expanding and changing. "The feedback we had from some people at the libraries was that they wanted to access some more popular titles."

Here's how it works: using an email and password, library cardholders first need to set up an account with the service. The service streams online, so Hoopla titles (music, movies, audiobooks) are available immediately, meaning there's no waiting or hold list. Movies are borrowed for three days, while entire albums can be accessed for a week (audiobooks are available for 21 days).

More positive Hoopla: no late fees. The movie or album is automatically removed from your account after the allowed borrow time has elapsed.

"There is a limit on it," Lomas said. "And right now, we're starting with a maximum 10 titles per month per person. It can be any combination."

Lomas said that the Winnipeg Public Library system is trying to market itself to an ever-changing demographic. People are mobile now, and content is now being consumed in places outside the traditional home environment. To that end, Hoopla's intention seems clear: pair the library experience with society's increased digital reliance.

"As (we help) public libraries break new ground in mobile access and patron reach across North America, we will continue to advance our best-of-breed technology, while transforming the library experience with mobile access to the latest movies, TV shows, documentaries and educational videos," Hoopla Digital founder and owner Jeff Jankowski said in a statement.

The Winnipeg library system is one of a handful of Canadian regional library systems coming online with Hoopla. Libraries in Saskatoon, Edmonton, Toronto and Vancouver have recently added the service. Hoopla digital has partnerships with over 200 libraries across North America, and plans to expand that number to approximately 800 before the end of 2014.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 23, 2014 C11

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