Miami-Dade County

Miami-Dade libraries to add more free online services

The Miami-Dade County library in downtown Miami.
The Miami-Dade County library in downtown Miami. Miami Herald File

Miami-Dade library patrons now have another free option to access library materials without setting foot in the library.

On Monday, the library system rolled out a partnership with Hoopla Digital,’ which provides mobile and online access to video, music and audiobooks. Hoopla plans to add e-books early next year.

Patrons need a library card to begin streaming or downloading content on the free Hoopla app to their smartphones, tablet or PCs.

“With Hoopla Digital, we are able to expand our collection with thousands of movies, songs and audiobooks that are accessible via your library’s website or hoopla app — free of charge,” said Monica Martinez, library service specialist for the Miami-Dade Public Library System. “The service is also digital and immediate, so there is no waiting period for popular titles and no need to worry about late fees.”

Miami-Dade library patrons can check out eight items per month. They can keep movies for three days, music for seven days and audiobooks for 21 days.

Hoopla Digital is a service of parent company Midwest Tape, based near Toledo, Ohio. The company started selling services to hundreds of public libraries about a year ago, said company’s founder Jeff Jankowski. Previously it had provided other materials to libraries for more than 20 years. Miami-Dade will become the ninth library system in Florida to use it.

Broward County is considering adding Hoopla in early 2015, said Stephen Grubb, Broward library’s e-services and marketing manager.

Hoopla has about 15,000 audiobooks, 15,000 movies and more than 185,000 albums.

“We have 70 percent of Billboard Top 40 the same day as iTunes gets it,” Jankowski said.

Since Palm Beach County started using Hoopla Digital about nine weeks ago, patrons have accessed about 9,300 materials —- video being the most popular, said Max McMillan, who oversees electronic collections for that library system.

“Everybody that has contacted us has been real pleased,” McMillan said.

Hoopla complements other digital services the library system has — it isn’t a replacement. While hoopla may not have certain new best-selling books, Overdrive, a similar service, does have them — though there can be a wait for patrons to get them.

Miami-Dade will continue it's current e-offerings including Overdrive for books, Freegal for music and Zinio for magazines. Hoopla doesn’t work with all the book publishers -- its top three audiobook partners are Tantor, Blackstone and Dreamscape. The service currently has content deals with Hollywood studios and record companies including Universal Pictures, MGM, Warner Music Group and Universal Music Group..

Nationwide, 90 percent of libraries offer e-books and a rising number of libraries offer other kinds of digital content, said Sari Feldman, president-elect of the American Library Association and executive director of the Cuyahoga County Public Library in Ohio.

“It’s an opportunity to provide these offerings and be part of what is changing in the reading, listening and viewing landscape,” she said.

The Miami-Dade libraries didn’t have to pay any upfront cost but will pay an average of $2 per transaction to Hoopla. Miami-Dade anticipates that will add up to about $50,000 a year.

Miami-Dade libraries have faced a budget crisis in recent years. In 2013, about half of the libraries faced closure until the mayor and commission raided one-time reserves. This year, the library has an extra $4 million to spend due to an increase in the specific property tax that pays for libraries, but it is still below 2010.