The Boston Public Library Is Now Streaming Movies and Music for Free

Introducing "hoopla": It's like Netflix but for libraries.

The Boston Public Library is keeping up with the demands of the general public.

Librarians and workers at the Boylston Street branch have already sort of mastered the art of sharing content online with members—from photos and maps to historical documents—but now they want to stream information and entertainment directly into people’s homes for the first time through a new partnership with a company called “hoopla.”

“We have been making a conscious effort to add to digital collections in the past year and have had a significant number of digital items including e-books, catalogues, and digitized images added. We thought this was great compliment to these services. It’s free, can be accessed from anywhere, and shows we are evolving as technology is evolving,” said Rosemary Lavery, senior public relations associate at the BPL.

So what is hoopla? It’s been described as a “free Netflix for library users,” but with a more limited stock, delivering on-demand entertainment to people’s electronic devices in a few easy steps.

Once logged into the service, hoopla content can be downloaded for temporary use, and streamed and watched on tablets, computers, and even smart phones. The free-streaming media network is accessible to anyone that has a card to the Boston Public Library, said Lavery, and gives them access to a trove of movies, music, and television series—oh, and of course, audiobooks. “There is something for everybody in the collection,” said Lavery. “You can access it anywhere, anytime. We are really interested in having library users engaged outside of our walls.”

Under the terms of the partnership, library cardholders can access up to 10 titles per month without the worry of late fees, since there’s an automatic return feature embedded in hoopla’s service. Checkouts for titles can range anywhere from three days to three weeks, so users don’t have to feel rushed when trying to access information. The BPL staff decided to start using hoopla after surveying customers and finding that access to streaming content was one of the top-requested new services people were looking for. New content will be added to BPL’s hoopla collection weekly, but there are already thousands of options to choose from in each of the respective categories.

“Technology is obviously is evolving so rapidly, and with digital offerings across so many mediums we want to be a part of that,” said Lavery. “Our users are familiar with technology, so this is one other service to offer them to keep them in engaged.”