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Madison Public Library now offering free video streaming service with 30,000 titles | Local Government

Madison Public Library now offering free video streaming service with 30,000 titles | Local Government

Liz Amundson subscribes to three streaming services for her family — Netflix, Hulu and HBO Max. But she’s also enjoying a fourth streaming option that’s completely free with a library card: Madison Public Library’s new streaming service, Kanopy.

“Kanopy is the best thing that libraries can offer people for a price that is affordable to us,” said Amundson, a reference and collection librarian at Madison Public Library, and mother of a sophomore at East High School.

“We can’t get Netflix for you. We can’t get Amazon Prime for you. We can’t get Hulu for you. It’s impossible. So, this is something we can do,” she said.

On March 1, the library began offering Kanopy in a test run to see how it will work.

Molly Warren, who handles digital and online collections for the Madison Public Library, said Kanopy had 769 users in its first month. Those who signed up discovered it without any marketing. “It’s kind of amazing,” Warren said.

People are also reading…

Kanopy’s selection includes about 30,000 videos, including indie films, documentaries, foreign films, popular cinema, educational courses and children’s shows.

The Madison Public Library Foundation provided a $24,000 grant to cover the cost of the library’s one-year subscription to Kanopy.

Warren said some library users have been aware of Kanopy because the University of Wisconsin has subscribed to components of the platform on and off over the years.

Late last year, the South Central Library System and other libraries in Wisconsin became eligible for a lower-cost subscription than they were able to get in the past, and the foundation was willing to fund it as a pilot, she said.

Kanopy users can create a watch list with what they’d like to see, Amundson said.

“I noticed just today, in the short time that we have had Kanopy, there have been some additions,” she said. “It looks like it’s truly changing all the time.”

She was happy to see “Hunt for the Wilderpeople,” a 2016 New Zealand adventure-drama that kicked off the Wisconsin Film Festival that year. “It is so charming. It’s a comedy, but it’s also poignant.” Amundson said. “I can’t imagine anyone on planet Earth not loving it.”

Amundson also recommends the 1954 Alfred Hitchcock crime-thriller “Dial M for Murder,” which is on the Kanopy roster, and the 2009 Chris Rock documentary, “Good Hair,” in which the comedian examined what at that time was the $9 billion Black hair industry.

Other titles include Anthony Bourdain’s series “A Cook’s Tour,” produced in 2000 and 2001 and first aired in 2002 and 2003 on the Food Network; “Magnolia,” Paul Thomas Anderson’s 1999 epic psychological drama with an all-star cast; and “Eighth Grade,” a 2018 coming-of-age film written and directed by comedian Bo Burnham.

“Twilight Zone: The Movie” from 1983 is included, as is 1991’s “Madame Bovary” and documentaries such as “Not Going Quietly,” “Last Man Fishing,” “Making a Killing: Guns, Greed and the NRA,” and Ken Burns’ “Country Music” series.

Subscribers to Kanopy through the library get 10 movie credits a month, plus the content Kanopy offers for free, including unlimited access to Kanopy Kids programming and educational courses.

When users start a film, they can watch it as many times as they want for 48 or 72 hours, depending on the title, without using a new credit.

Children’s programming includes “Sesame Street” in English and Spanish; a Highlights magazine show; stories like “Chicka Chicka 1,2,3,” “Where the Wild Things Are” and “Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus”; read-along story books; and historical and classic tales.

Titles under The Great Courses include the 24-episode “The Skeptic’s Guide to American History,” the 48-episode “The History of Ancient Egypt” and the 24-episode “Nuclear Physics Explained.”

Library use was down in 2020 and 2021, as materials were harder to access because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Still, in 2021 all items with barcodes — books, DVDs, Blu-rays and CDs — were checked out more than 1.4 million times, Amundson said.

Users are still checking out DVDs and Blu-rays in large numbers, she said. Together, circulation of those media at all nine Madison libraries combined was 349,166, or 23% of everything checked out, she said.

In 2019, the total circulation of barcoded items was more than 3 million with DVDs and Blu-rays at about 791,000.

For 2021, Madison library cardholders also checked out about 373,000 eBooks and 294,000 downloadable audio materials, according to librarian Katie Hanson from the library’s collection management team.

That’s up from 2019, when nearly 254,000 eBooks were checked out along with 208,000 audio books.

Kanopy on phone

Neeyati Shah, community engagement and electronic resources librarian, demonstrates how to use the Kanopy app on her smartphone.

Neeyati Shah, the library’s community engagement and electronic resources librarian, said the library’s DVD collection still gets a lot of use in the streaming era.

“Videos are something that people want from the library,” Shah said. “And I think this is just another format. It’s not necessarily an either/or, but people do want the option to be able to stream things on different devices, depending on where they are, if they don’t have a physical DVD with them.”

Streaming services are something the library has gotten lots of requests for, she said. “So, it’s good to be able to actually offer it. … As far as what libraries can offer for video streaming, this is really one of the best products that’s available.”

Kanopy’s selection includes about 30,000 videos, including indie films, documentaries, foreign films, popular cinema, educational courses and children’s shows.