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Longview Public library expanding digital options

By Matthew Prosser
Jan. 16, 2016 at 11:28 p.m.

Media specialist Elissa Breitenstein demonstrates Friday how Longview Public Library cardholders can use the Hoopla app to download books, movies and music.

Longview Public Library is making a Hoopla and looking for ways to provide books and other media to an increasingly digital audience.

The library now offers Hoopla Digital, a free Netflix-like service to its users, giving them access to more than 400,000 movies, music, e-books and more.

"We're one of the few public libraries in Texas that has it," said Elissa Breitenstein, media specialist for the library. "Longview has it, then there's Bedford (near Dallas) and Pflugerville. We're the only library in East Texas with this service."

Media Specialist Jesse Davis said the Longview library strives to stay "modern and current" to give patrons the best experience possible.

"We live in a digital world, and an increasing number of people use their mobile devices for the majority of their entertainment and learning," he said. "With Hoopla — and many of our other digital resources — patrons can instantly access their borrowed content on their mobile devices via a free app, essentially allowing them to take the library with them wherever they go."

The new system allows people to borrow five items a month — with no waiting — from a broad online library covering dozens of genres of books, music, TV shows and movies.

Available on any smartphone, tablet or computer with an Internet connection, the system is accessed through the library's website or an app found in either the Apple or Google app stores.

Hoopla is accessed using a current library card and email login. Go to hoopladigital.com, create a free account, and choose "Longview Public Library" from the list. Once signed in, you can begin to search and borrow.

Davis said to download or stream content on a mobile device, the Hoopla app must be downloaded.

"You can search for these on your device, but the links are also available on our website and hoopladigital.com," he said. "Customers are currently limited to five items per month. Movies/TV shows check out for three days; music checks out for one week; and e-books/audiobooks/comic books check out for three weeks."

There is no waiting, no holds, and no late fees.

Kim Ball, Technical and Digital Services Supervisor, said the service is funded out of the operating budget of the Longview Public Library.

"It costs the library $6,000 a year," she said. "There is no platform fee for the service, meaning there is no additional cost of having the subscription to the Hoopla database."

Breitenstein said the library is charged each time a patron checks out an item, which is why there is a monthly limit of five checkouts.

"We're starting with five because we want to see how popular it is and get a better sense of the potential expense to the budget," she said, adding that the library offers Hoopla's full catalog with simultaneous checkout "so patrons don't have to wait to check out any item."

Ball said the library's staff has been planning for more than a year to add Hoopla to its other online services.

"We have a longstanding business relationship with its parent company — Midwest Tapes — who supplies the library with DVDs, Blu-rays, and audiobooks," he said. "(Midwest Tapes) told us a few years ago they were developing a digital platform. It is now up and running, and we are thrilled to offer it to our patrons."

Ball, Breitenstein, and Davis all agreed that although they are excited for what Hoopla offers in the form of free music, movies and television shows, encouraging literacy and a love of books is the top priority.

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