What’s all the Hoopla about? Public library steps up its digital game

Pam Monson

    Wilmington’s 24-7 library service grew by a half million items this week, including e-books, audiobooks, movies, music — even graphic novels — with the addition of Hoopla to its e-media services lineup.
    Hoopla Digital was expected to go live on the Wilmington Public Library District website, www.wilmingtonlibrary.org, on Wednesday, July 11. It’s a web and mobile platform that provides a wide range of digital content, and allows library patrons to download or stream free of charge using their library cards.
    According to library director Maria Meachum, unlike other e-media services, with Hoopla, there are no holds and no waiting for content to be returned by another user. Everything in its extensive library is available instantly.
    “The nicest thing is, there’s no wait. If it’s in Hoopla, you can get it right now,” she said.
    Patrons will have access to complete albums rather than just one song, and can enjoy them for seven days. Movies are available for 48 hours and episodes from television series are available for three days. Audiobooks and e-books can be checked out for 21 days.
    Content can be enjoyed on computers, tablets, cellphones and smart TVs, and can be downloaded to phones or tablets for off-line entertainment later on. Some content, such as music and movies, is only downloadable to mobile devices, but can be streamed on computers. It can’t be ripped or burned or added to iTunes, to preserve its copyright.
    Televisions can be connected through Amazon, Roku, AppleTV, AndroidTV, Chromecast, FireTV, or through their smart TV streaming capabilities.
    The downloads auto-delete at the end of the loan period.
    With no waiting for content, those books that are required reading at school are available as e-books and audiobooks for evening homework sessions, even when students forget to take them from their lockers. Or, patrons can download the soundtrack from the movie they just watched, or the audiobook it was based on, to enhance its cinematic entertainment value.
    Hoopla may not have the newest David Baldaci audiobook, or this week’s bestseller, but it will likely have most of the author’s previous works and past bestseller selections in its collection. Meachum thinks the availability of graphic novels is cool, and she’s excited about being able to offer so much music, as the district’s summer reading program has a Libraries Rock theme.
    Patrons are limited to four downloads per month per library card (so families have added download capability) until the library district can determine the true cost of using the service, Meachum said. The library district is assessed a small fee for each item downloaded. It budgeted $2,000 for this year, of which half is already committed on account, like a pre-loaded debit card. If there’s enough demand, the number of allowable checkouts could be increased if funds are available.
    It was nice to add 500,000 items to the local library for $1,000, and know that nobody has to wait for the content they want, the director noted.
    “We’re really stepping up our digital game,” she concluded.
    The free Hoopla app can be downloaded from the Apple App Store and Google Play Store. You can also the service at www.hoopladigital.com. You’ll have to register with your library card, a PIN and location. Patrons who don’t regularly use e-media services can call the library at 815-476-2834 to set up a PIN. You’ll be able to download samples of each type of media, which do not count against your monthly download count.
    Patrons who need a little help getting Hoopla set up on their devices are encouraged to stop at the library, 201 S. Kankakee St. for friendly assistance.