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Local libraries struggle to balance cost of digital services against demand

14 March 2017

From the Sandusky Register:

When the CLEVNET library consortium stopped offering Hoopla Digital, the most popular digital library service, almost all public libraries in the Sandusky area faced a choice.

Do they spend additional money to continue offering Hoopla to their patrons, or do they drop the service?

In every case the Register could learn about, local libraries came up with extra money and kept offering Hoopla.

But the experience of using Hoopla has given libraries a lesson on the transition from paper books and other physical objects such as DVDs and audio CDs to the presumed library of the future, which likely will rely on digital materials.

. . . .

Hoopla is sometimes considered the best digital library service. Notably, users can check out any item they want, without having to go on a waiting list for popular items. Each patron of a library in the CLEVNET system was allowed 10 checkouts a month.

CLEVNET officials didn’t return a phone call from Register asking about why it dropped Hoopla, but James Tolbert, director of the Milan-Berlin Library District, said Hoopla refused to give CLEVNET a consortium discount. CLEVNET hadn’t raised membership fees to cover the Hoopla cost and found it couldn’t afford Hoopla, Tolbert said.

“The first year, it was somewhere around double what they budgeted for,” Tolbert said.

. . . .

Tolbert, who said each Hoopla checkout by a patron costs his library an average of $1.77, decided to budget $1,500 [per month] to try keeping the service for a year. Each patron is allowed 10 checkouts a month, the same as before, Tolbert said.

. . . .

Sandusky Library has 25,376 cardholders. The library has 781 patrons who have signed up for Hoopla, Carver said.

Link to the rest at Sandusky Register

Ebook Borrowing/Lending, Libraries

5 Comments to “Local libraries struggle to balance cost of digital services against demand”

  1. Our rural library system used Hoopla for a couple years. There was a lot to like about it. I thought their general model was greatly superior to Overdrive, but it had an enormous flaw for us. We run on a tight budget. Our tax revenues can almost be predicted to the dollar and we gauge our expenditures accordingly. We buy as many books and ebook licenses as our budget allows. When the well is dry, you wait until next year. Our managers are good at working the well to deal with contingencies and providing uniform services over our fiscal year. But Hoopla costs depend on user demand, which our managers were not able to control or predict. We had to make some drastic adjustments when Hoopla costs whip-sawed us. We eventually decided that Hoopla and our fiscal controls were not compatible and dropped Hoopla.

    A shame. I really liked Hoopla.

  2. Hoopla recorded over six million digital transactions last year.

    Not quite in OverDrive’s league *(200 million downloads) but definitely somewhere indies would find productive to be.

  3. is there yet any corsortium that brokers to libraries instead of having to license ebooks to libraries one by one besides Overdrive [hate them, they squeeze the authors/ artists badly] ? I wonder…

    Democritus, whenyou sayHoopla costs are on user demand, doyou mean suddely a price would shoot up because book was popular or a sudden bestseller, or?

    I wonder if there are any other choices for authors to license to libraries easily and so that all are served.

  4. Too bad ebooks can’t be treated like paper ones; buy once, use one at a time.

    Instead, they are treated like a service, you pay every time they are used.

    While it might be nice for the author (if they even get a cut), it’s not how a library is supposed to operate.

  5. The problem with Hoopla is that its audio download stinks. I get a book downloaded, and it comes out scrambled. You hear parts of different chapters and repetitions of the same parts.

    I don’t know why it does that. Didn’t use to.

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