Austin Public Library expands virtual media collection

Selah Maya Zighelboim

Austin Public Library expanded member access to virtual books, movies and other media through a service called hoopla on Tuesday.

The new access will be to hoopla’s own library of 350,000 items of media, which members can access alongside the library’s other virtual media. Austin Public Library members can access hoopla by either going directly to its website or downloading the service as an app and creating an account with a library card, electronic resources librarian Amy Mullin said in an Austin Public Library blog post.

“hoopla has content that we can’t get through some of our other services, and we also like how it’s a very easy service to use,” Mullin said. “It just involves either one app or streaming content through your browser. A lot of our patrons have been asking for it since it came out in 2013, and we feel that it compliments what we already have.”
Mullin said hoopla offers several benefits over checking out books in the traditional way: Members can check out books from hoopla no matter where they are in the world; there will never be a wait time to check out a book and the book is automatically returned at the end of the check-out period.

Anyone who has a valid Austin Public Library card can access hoopla, Mullin said. That does not include people whose card has expired or who have more than $10 in fines.
Mullin said anyone interested in becoming an Austin Public Library member should do so before Oct. 1 because until then membership is free regardless of where potential members live. Beginning Oct. 1, only Austin residents will be able to become a member for free, but the library has not yet decided who counts as an Austin resident.

“Even though we still check out lots of books and graphic novels and audiobooks and CDs and DVDs, we also like bringing the library to people,” Mullin said. “We’re becoming a more mobile society, and this gives our customers another option.”

Rebecca Westwick, Austin Public Library member and biology and Spanish senior, said she had not heard about hoopla before, but she is interested in trying out the service.
“I know that they’ve had some online materials for a while now, but it sounds like this is a huge expansion of that,” Westwick said.

University of Texas Libraries communications officer Travis Willmann said the UT library system does not offer a similar single vendor mobile service the way Austin Public Library does with hoopla. However, the library system has a collection of more than 1 million e-books. Additionally, the Fine Arts Library launched a program called Kanopy in June, which offers the ability to stream 26,000 films.

Willmann said these function as an alternative to hoopla, as users can access them through personal technology such as a smartphone or tablet.

“I think, because of the way we collect materials here at the library, it’s different than collecting general collections in the same way Austin Public Library does,” Willmann said. “We’re collecting research journals through one stream, we’re collecting physical materials like books, we’re collecting audiovisual materials. We’re getting access to certain databases, so there’s not going to be one company out there that’s going to be able to provide that single solution.”