By Ana Martinez-Ortiz
Like most other entities in this day and age, the library, is becoming digital. This summer, deemed by Milwaukee County Library directors as the “Summer of Hoopla,” is a turning point in the library’s quest to appeal to digital side of society.
Hoopla is a digital streaming service that library members can access via their computer or by downloading the app. Armed with the barcode found on their library card and pin number, they have instant access to “borrow” a wide range of audiobooks, complete albums, films and more.
Milwaukee County Federated Library System director, Bruce Gay, said this venture into the digital side is part of the Milwaukee County System’s strategic plan.
Hoopla became available to Milwaukee library card holders on June 12, 2017. Nearly a month later, roughly 2,594 items have been downloaded, a pretty good number according to Gay.
Several directors, including Gay, found Hoopla to be appealing for several reasons.
He said it offered more ways to provide digital content as well as some ways to make digital content better.
Unlike other services, Hoopla provided access to comic books, as well as complete albums compared to partial ones. Additionally, users aren’t placed on a waiting list rather they have instant access to the item upon clicking borrow. The ultimate selling point, Gay explained was Hoopla’s overall clean look and its easy functionality compared to other sites. Each user is allowed to “borrow” six items per month. The length of time per borrowed item varies. For example, select movies like “This Beautiful Fantastic” are available to watch for only 72 hours, while others like “Secretary” remain in the cart for 48. Most CDs like the “Hamilton” or “Moana” soundtrack can be listened to for seven days, while comics and e-books can be read for 21 days. Regardless, at the end of the borrowing period the item automatically removes from the cart.
Before using Hoopla, the libraries had a limited selection of audiobooks and e-books via OverDrive that were only available to check out. As a result, a list formed while people waited for their opportunity to borrow popular items. Hoopla eliminated the waiting list. Hoopla also offers a wide range of options that include timeless classics in addition to newer materials. Library card holders still have access to the county’s other digital options like OverDrive for e-books and audio stories, and Zinio for magazines. They can also utilize Wisconsin’s Digital Library also known as the Wisconsin Public Library Consortium.
Given the continuing expansion of the digital platform directors are planning to invest more into platforms like Hoopla, Overdrive and Zinio, Gay stated. In past years Gay recalled how quickly the use and popularity of digital media like e-books and audio books rose. “Libraries are reacting to the public’s need,” Gay said.
As of now, Hoopla is not a permanent fixture for the county’s libraries, but it will remain throughout the summer. After the summer season ends, directors plan to survey Hoopla users and determine if they should bring it back. Until that decision, card holders will still have access to books, film and more by physically visiting a library.