Libraries add free streaming service


With more than 650,000 potential members and growing in the Bronx alone, Netflix might have a big competitor for its online streaming service. And it’s coming from the most unlikely place — the library.

Kanopy debuted Aug. 4, allowing New York Public Library cardholders to choose from some 30,000 films — all available free of charge. The service is a hit at the Riverdale branch already, and is picking up steam in other Bronx locations.

For an institution typically known for its books, the library already is getting a boost thanks to Kanopy, at least locally. Rebecca Brown-Barbier, the branch manager at the Riverdale library, said she had 10 people sign up for library cards just to have access to the service.

“People have been real enthusiastic about it,” said Lynda Perez, a senior adult librarian at the Riverdale branch. “They are interested.”

Perez teaches computer classes at the library, and uses those tech skills to help some patrons access the service. She also uses Kanopy herself, creating a playlist of future films to watch, like “Makers: Women in Comedy” featuring Kathy Griffin, and instructional videos on photography.

“I think we need to have things like this in order to keep up,” Perez said. “I think having a service like this makes us more relevant.”

Although Kanopy was an instant hit in Riverdale, it’s had a bit of a slow start in Kingsbridge, said its branch manager Martha Gonzalez-Buitrago. There, cardholders are aware of it, but she hasn’t received a lot of feedback, nor any noticeable influx of new members because of it.

The same appears to be true at the Spuyten Duyvil branch on West 235th Street.

“A few people got excited about it,” branch manager Tim Tureski said. However, “some of them don’t have computers or don’t really understand the concept of streaming.”

Yet, there could be more interest than branch managers can see. While the libraries have people on-hand to help set Kanopy up, it’s a service cardholders can sign up for and access from home. Because of that, it’s trickier to gauge how many patrons have actually enrolled.

Kanopy, according to its website, was started in Western Australia in 2008 by selling DVDs to university libraries there. A few years later, the company expanded that into streaming services out of San Francisco, and now boasts a library of 26,000 films.

That includes everything from the original 2009 version of “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” to the Ken Burns documentary “The Central Park Five,” or even the 1927 silent film classic “Metropolis.”

Cardholders also have access to The Criterion Collection, which offers both classic and contemporary films.

All someone needs to access Kanopy is a device like a smartphone or tablet computer, or they can use their desktop or laptop computer. Once a film has started, the viewer has three days to finish it, and they get to watch a total of 10 movies each month.

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