Philadelphia Free Library Drops Kanopy Movie Streaming Service

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No more Kanopy or Hoopla access with your library card. On June 30, the Free Library ended its partnership with the two streaming platforms, which offered thousands of films, documentaries, songs and audiobooks.

Cardholders who have used the services are quite upset – a library blog post about the change was full of comments frustrated users.

But the change makes sense, library management said, when you consider the number of people who actually used the platforms compared to their price. Together, Kanopy and Hoopla were expected to cost half a million dollars in fiscal 2022.

Instead, the money will be redirected to in-person services at branch libraries across the city, interim manager Leslie M. Walker told Billy Penn.

“As we prepare to offer more in-person services,” Walker said, “we need to reallocate the money that has been redirected to our digital resources during the COVID-19 closures.”

In total, however, the two streaming services were only used by around 2,000 to 7,000 customers per month, according to Walker – a fraction of the 26,000 physical borrowers who visit physical branches.

After drastic cuts to library budget during pandemic, advocates requested $ 15 million more than the $ 43 million initially offered for this year by Mayor Jim Kenney. He ended up around $ 51 million, according to city council documents.

Although they are a minority of Free Library users, active Kanopy and Hoopla users are still disappointed.

“They really hurt the people who depend on them,” said Steve Ramm, reader of Billy Penn, a self-proclaimed film and documentary lover. “The only alternative is physical DVDs. Many films [are] not on DVD, and with Kanopy EVERYBODY has access to it.

The partnerships were introduced with great fanfare in 2017. Kanopy offers 30,000 documentaries and films, including Moonlight, Lady Bird and The Central Park Five. Hoopla is a similar service, but offers audiobooks, e-books, music, and videos.

Some residents of Philly had started to rely on the service.

“No fuss? I used to put college reading material in there, ”William Earl-Jerome of North Philly wrote in the comments to the library blog. “Audiobooks, Kendrick Lamar albums… uh, you all hang around for canceling that. “

The change will likely also have an impact on people who are not Free Library of Philadelphia cardholders; The Pittsburgh Library led their bosses to the Philly system, and the University of Pennsylvania used subscription to the free library.

While it’s free to customers, each stream costs the library from $ 0.99 to $ 4.99, which Walker says adds up quickly. To keep costs down, the library was already limiting borrowers to 4 titles per month and removing children’s content.

“What we’ve learned over these years is that no pay-as-you-go pricing model is really sustainable for a library,” Walker said. “The more popular the resource becomes, the less we can afford it. “

Other libraries across the country, such as Temple Universityis in North Philadelphia and the San Francisco Public Library, maintain their Kanopy subscriptions. But the New York, Brooklyn, and Queens public library system abandoned Kanopy two years ago because it was too expensive.

The Free Library maintains two other streaming services that offer free movies, music, and e-books: Alexander Street Press and Overdrive. There are also physical DVDs and books available that cover some of the same material, Walker said.

Some have observed that free streaming access makes people want to get a library card in the first place.

“I am really disappointed to hear this,” commented Katherine Fritz. “Kanopy was a fantastic resource to use with my students, and it helped me increase library usage by emphasizing that they have a map. I really hope there is a way to put more money into digital and streaming material. “


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