The Concord Public Library is adding a second service to stream and download digital items, a move to meet sharply increasing customer demand even as more than 90 percent of checkouts involve books, CDs and other physical items.
The library now has incorporated Hoopla Digital to supplement the statewide New Hampshire Downloadable Books service operated by the firm OverDrive, which Concord used for close to a decade. Both are available to any person with a library card.
The main advantage of Hoopla, said Assistant Library Director Mathew Bose, is its collection of movies, music and graphic novels.
“OverDrive has no movies or music, and graphic novels are not quite as robust as we’d like,” said Bose, who is also the library’s technical service manager.
Like New Hampshire Downloadable Books, Hoopla Digital can be accessed from the web or from smartphones and tablets.
Concord also offers RD Digital, which specializes in unlimited downloadable magazines.
Like all libraries, for years Concord’s library has been wrestling with how to balance digital and physical items.
Last fiscal year, Bose said, the library “recorded 296,561 checkouts of physical materials (DVDs, CD, print books, etc.) and 27,220 checkouts of digital materials.” In other words, more than 92 percent of checkouts by number were physical items.
But interest in digital items is growing, with a 121 percent increase in digital checkouts from 2012 to 2017.
“We expect digital checkouts to continue to climb with the addition of new digital formats to our collection,” he said.
That is why the library is shifting more money to digital offerings. The current fiscal year, Bose said, 14 percent of the total collection was earmarked for digital materials, a sharp increase from last year’s tally of 3 percent.
“With the proliferation of electronic devices and the increasing demand for streaming and downloadable content, we have been shifting our spending to offer a digital collection that meets the community’s needs,” Bose said.
New Hampshire Downloadable Books is a consortium of most town libraries in the state. It buys a certain number of digital copies of works, both e-books and audio books, and only that many copies can be checked out statewide at any time. As a result, many of the titles in the system have to be put on hold rather than downloaded immediately.
Hoopla Digital will not have that limitation, Bose said. All titles will be immediately available to anybody.
The cost to Concord Public Library will be a function of how much the system is used. The library is putting a limit of five titles per month for each patron, but that might change as the system gets used.
“The relationship between the electronic publishing world and libraries, it’s always evolving. Some publishers lease us the content, and we pay per checkout; some will sell us the digital electronic content but at a higher price. They’re still looking at new models,” Bose said.
A number of other municipal libraries have signed up with Hoopla Digital, including Manchester, Goffstown and Bedford.
N.H. Downloadable Books, which has a relatively clumsy interface online that can be hard to use, is launching a new smartphone app called Libby. “It is a much improved platform,” Bose said.
(David Brooks can be reached at 369-3313 or firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @GraniteGeek.)