By Mike LaBella
---- — HAVERHILL — There are still many good reasons to stop by the public library, however there are a growing number of reasons to stay home.
Beginning next month, the library will offer a new online service for streaming and downloading free movies,TV programs, full-length music CDs and audiobooks.
Called Hoopla, the Netflix-style of service offers thousands of titles for viewing on your smartphone, tablet or computer. And you won’t have to worry about paying a late fee ever again. When your rental time is up, your selection is automatically returned.
When Hoopla goes live on Feb. 3, the Haverhill Public Library will become the second library in the Merrimack Valley Library Consortium to offer the service. Library officials said the town of Andover began offering it several months ago. The next closest towns that are currently offering this new service are Wilmington and Stratham, N.H.
“This will become a permanent service if patrons like it, if not we can cancel it,” assistant library director Sarah Moser said about the service which the library is paying for.
The selection of movies is limited at this time, so don’t expect to have access to the latest blockbuster hits, but the offerings will grow over time, Moser said.
Angela Archer was at the library yesterday looking to rent a DVD movie for disabled adults at a group home she works at. She said having the ability to stream or download a video means not having to visit the library during times when it is busy, such as the day before a snowstorm.
“This could cut down on the mad rush for movies on snow days,” Archer said. “We can all stay in a watch a movie and have popcorn.”
Patrons will need a library card as registering for Hoopla will require your card’s PIN number as well as your email address.
“You’ll be able to search and browse movies, similar to services such as Netflix,” Moser said.
The free Hoopla app is available at the Apple AppStore and the Google Play Store for Android devices, although you won’t be able to register until the library launches the service.
Unlike the “OverDrive Media Console” used for downloading digital and audiobooks, Hoopla has no queue so you can rent items whenever you’re in the mood without having to wait for another patron to return them.
Through Hoopla, library patrons can borrow digital music albums for a week, digital movies for three days and audiobooks for three weeks.
“Our goal is to have as wide an array of services as possible and appear to as many patrons as possible,” Moser said.
For the last several years or so the library has been expanding its online offerings, which include being able to access certain magazines, such as Consumer Reports, on your desktop computer, laptop, tablet or smartphone.
Through OverDrive, library patrons can download eBooks and audiobooks. An app is available for iPhones, IPads, android phones and tablets, Kindle, Nook, Windows 8 PCs and tablets and other devices.
Car and Driver, Horse and Rider and Good Housekeeping are just a few of the more than 30 magazines you can read for free on any PC, Mac, tablet or smartphone through Zinio, an online service the library offers.
Moser says Hoopla may eventually replace Freegal, an online service that allows patrons to download and keep five music MP3s each week for playback on computers, players, tablets or smartphones. With Hoopla, you can borrow an entire CD, choosing from an expanded selection, but the music will stop playing when your free rental period expires.
Library patrons have embraced online services such as HeritageQuest for genealogy research, Mango Languages for learning a new language and Consumer Reports online.
Moser said people are using these services to such a degree that the Haverhill Public Library has the second highest usage rate in the MVLC, an alliance of 29 public libraries serving 35 communities throughout the Merrimack Valley region of Massachusetts.
Moser says these and future online media offerings aren’t expected to result in fewer people visiting the library in person, although it is something that librarians nationwide are studying.
She said these services not only save patrons from paying rental fees, but they open a world of access to those who can’t easily get to the library.
“Our goal is to have as wide an array of services as possible and appeal to as many patrons as possible,” Moser said.
The library will celebrate “Hoopla” day on Feb. 3 when it officially launches the program. Patrons who stop by the library can see live demonstrations on how the program operates and take part in free raffles for items such as Hoopla T-shirts, late-fee forgiveness cards, DVD rentals and other prizes. Hoopla is a service of Midwest Tape, which provides libraries with media such as CDs, DVDs and audiobooks.
To see what movies, music, audiobooks and TV programs are available, visit Hoopla online at www.hoopladigital.com.