Jacksonville Library to Offer Instant Streaming Services; Hoopla Digital System Is Expected to Go Live by End of December

Article excerpt

Byline: Teresa Stepzinski

A library card soon will give Jacksonville Public Libraries patrons free access to instant streaming and temporary downloading of movies, television shows, music and more to their mobile devices and computers.

Hoopla Digital, which is an electronic borrowing service, should go live by the end of December. Jacksonville joins about 25 other public library systems nationwide that already have it or are in the process of launching the service, which is similar to Netflix.

Jacksonville will be the only library system on the First Coast to offer Hoopla, although the Orange County Library System in Orlando has it and the Lee County Library System in Fort Myers is testing with the intention of going live also at the end of December.

Barbara Gubbin, Jacksonville library director, said providing access to information is a key priority. Hoopla will allow the library to provide a diverse selection of entertainment as well as educational programs to customers via smartphones, tablets and computers.

"Customers want information to be available to them anytime, anywhere and in a format they can access easily. ... It's important to us that we stay current with the technology our customers most want to use," Gubbin said.

Hoopla offers a platform that was designed and built specifically for library customers. Rather than a retail model adapted to libraries, it was intended for libraries from the start, said Kathy Lussier, library spokeswoman.

The system will have "simultaneous checkout," which means there is no limit on the number of people who can check out the same movie, music or audio book at one time.

"I think it will be awesome," said Karly Slocum of Jacksonville. "... Sometimes when I want to check out a DVD or audio book, all of the copies are already gone."

The Jacksonville library has budgeted $86,000 for the service through Sept. 30, 2014, when the fiscal year ends. It's a pay-as-you-go agreement. Each time a customer borrows an item through the service, the library will pay Hoopla a user fee.

Typically, it will cost the library about 99 cents to $2.99 per video checkout, while music will cost about $1.49 to $1.99 per checkout and audio books will be about 99 cents to $2.99 per checkout. The rate at which the library's budget for Hoopla is used depends on customer usage, and the price of the item checked out. The library will be monitoring the funds monthly. It has an option to cap the amount per month, if usage exceeds the cost estimate, to ensure the service is available through the end of the fiscal year, Lussier said.

Other First Coast libraries said they've heard about the system or looked at similar ones, but it's "too cost prohibitive" for their counties right now.

"We've not had a lot of interest in it yet. It may be too new and not a lot of people are aware of it yet," said Debra Rhodes Gibson, director of the St. …

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