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Smarter Libraries through Technology: Streaming Video: The Current Phase of Digital Services for Libraries

Smart Libraries Newsletter [December 2021]

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Libraries in recent years have seen increasing interest in providing access to streaming video to their patrons. Use of physical media, such as DVDs and Blu-ray, has dwindled in the library in tandem to trends in the consumer market, which has seen an almost complete pivot to on-demand streaming services, such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and HBO Max. The cost of these subscription services represents a financial burden. Consistent with the mission of libraries to provide books and ebooks that can be accessed without cost to their patrons, similar concerns apply to video content. Libraries seek to provide digital content in ways that are free to their patrons, supporting this access through content or subscription fees they purchase.

This fundamental model of purchasing content for cost-free lending to patrons prevails across all formats. Ebook lending services have become mainstays for public libraries but bring considerable challenges to libraries due to high licensing costs and access limitations imposed by publishers. Libraries, publishers, and ebook lending platform providers continue to work toward more optimal pricing and access models.

The streaming video arena presents similar challenges. Libraries increasingly want to provide high-quality video offerings to their patrons. Consistent with book and ebook collections, libraries want to provide both educational and recreational materials. Library-oriented content providers have responded to this demand, offering packages for libraries to purchase or license, enabling patrons access without cost. Streaming video has become an established part of library offerings. Some of the major library-oriented video content packages or streaming services include:

  • Alexander Street, which specializes in video content for libraries, including documentaries and other primary source material. Alexander Street was acquired by ProQuest in June 2016. ProQuest's video collections that were previously offered as separate products have shifted to the Alexander Street platform, including Academic Video Online and Public Library Video Online: Premium.
  • Kanopy, which is known for its curated collections of documentaries and movies selected for film studies, other academic disciplines, and general interest. Its collections include over 30,000 titles. Kanopy offers different licensing options for public and academic libraries. Kanopy became part of OverDrive in July 2021. (See the September 2021 issue of Smart Libraries Newsletter for details about Kanopy and OverDrive.)
  • OverDrive, known especially for its ebook and audiobook lending service, also offers streaming video. Its recent acquisition of Kanopy indicates that streaming video is a growing area of interest for the company.
  • Hoopla, which has become widely adopted by public libraries for its extensive audiobook collections, also includes movies and television programs through streaming. Swank Motion Pictures offers streaming digital movie services for many types of organizations. Swank Digital Campus offers collections of over 25,000 movies and documentaries.

Over the course of the last few decades, libraries have continually expanded their collections and services to include digital content. The initial phase of this transition took the form of the shift of scholarly journals from print to electronic formats. This transition has redefined much of the work of academic libraries.

The next phase of the expansion of library services into digital content led to the creation of ebook platforms for libraries. OverDrive launched its ebook lending for service for libraries in 2003 and continues to be the global leader in this sector. Other examples include ProQuest acquiring ebrary and EBL, which has since been developed into Ebook Central. EBSCO Information Services acquired library ebook pioneer NetLibrary in 2010 and has developed the extensive collections available through EBSCO eBooks. Bibliotheca acquired the cloudLibrary service from 3M in 2015 and has continued to improve its technology platform and expand its coverage. Baker & Taylor launched its Axis 360 ebook lending service in 2015.

Given rising interest in the expansion of digital content offerings, it is not surprising to see some of the major players investing in streaming video services. The acquisition of Alexander Street by ProQuest and OverDrive's acquisition of Kanopy reflect this trend. This issue of Smart Libraries Newsletter features the launch of biblio+, a streaming service for public libraries recently launched by Bibliotheca.

View Citation
Publication Year:2021
Type of Material:Article
Language English
Published in: Smart Libraries Newsletter
Publication Info:Volume 41 Number 12
Issue:December 2021
Publisher:ALA TechSource
Series: Smarter Libraries through Technology
Place of Publication:Chicago, IL
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Record Number:26950
Last Update:2022-12-06 05:51:01
Date Created:2022-01-05 09:19:33