The Herald Bulletin

April 13, 2014

Alexandria library going digital

By Zach Osowski
The Herald Bulletin

---- — ALEXANDRIA — "Netflix for libraries."

That's how Montie Manning is describing the new digital program his library is using to make borrowing the latest books and movies easier than ever.

Manning, the director of the Alexandria-Monroe Public Library, said the library started using a program called Hoopla in February. In the two months that have followed, he said he has been very pleased with the results.

"I am very happy with Hoopla," Manning said. "We chose it because it seemed very user friendly and that appears to be the case for us as well."

Trying to keep up with the new digital age, the library teamed up with Hoopla to allow library members to access content on their phones, computers or tablets. The content can be downloaded and is then stored on the user’s device for a set amount of time depending on what they get. Audio books are available for three weeks, CDs for one week and movies or TV shows are available for three days.

The content available is not limited to what is available at the library.

"As soon as a book is available in stores, it's up on Hoopla," Manning said. "They've very good about having new content."

Manning said the best part about the program is as many people can stream a popular audio book as needed. If the library only has one copy of a popular audio book, only one person can use it, but with Hoopla, 500 people can stream the audio book.

Manning said the increasing digital age was the main reason for the library going with some sort of digital access content.

Passion Hemphill, a representative of Hoopla Media, said this is a way for libraries to stay in the digital game.

“This is an effort to keep libraries relevant,” she said. “This will save money for libraries as well.”

She said the process for signing up is very user friendly. Users simply download the Hoopla app, sign up and type in their library card number. Once the information is in, they can begin checking out everything from audio books to music albums. As of right now, users are limited to five items a month.

Beth Spade, director of the library's adult program, said the older library members who can't get out to the library as often are really enjoying the Hoopla app. Spade said the program is very user friendly, even for older members.

Leroy Shores, 80, is one of the people Spade has talked to about Hoopla. He said he uses it regularly and is pretty pleased with how it works. His one complaint is the limit of only five titles per month, which is something Manning said could be changed as the library sees how the program progresses.

Shores said the program is also very easy to use, thanks in part to the Hoopla link located on the library's home page online.

"I don't have any problems using the program and I'm 80," Shores said. "If I can do it, I think everyone can do it."

For the most part, Manning said audio books seem to be the popular choice for the Hoopla users. He was worried the downloads might be almost exclusively movies but he said it was encouraging for him to see so many audio book downloads.

Follow Zach Osowski on Twitter @Osowski_THB, or call 640-4847.