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Sharing gifts of digital media


holidaygiftsIt’s the season for getting together with family and friends.  This year, I’ve found myself giving many of them a rather unintentional gift–an introduction to their public libraries’ digital media collections.

While most of my friends and relatives have library cards, I am discovering, among the people I know who are not librarians, a surprising ignorance of the power of their cards to access digital media.

For me, the new services have been game changers. I no longer subscribe to print magazines because of my public library’s access to RBDigital. And, my public libraries’ Hoopla and Kanopy services now offer much valued intellectual balance to my commercial video apps.

So school librarian buddies, while we may not be able to offer our friends and families access to our own school collections, we can build awareness of other library gifts.

This holiday season, in addition to sharing those wrapped goodies, let’s help our public library colleagues share the bounty and the joy of their easy-to-access collections of magazines, ebooks, audiobooks, and videos for all ages.

I propose that after dinner, we have some library fun. Play library Santa. Ask your guests to take out their library cards and their mobile devices (or ask to see their collection of TV apps), and help them get started with accounts to any of the following available free-to-the-public gifts:

RBDigital, from Recorded Books, offers instant, full-color, interactive digital magazines without any holds, checkout periods or other such limits. Checked out issues may be read instantly on the library site or downloaded to your app. Most new issues are released simultaneously with their print counterparts.

The platform also includes ebook and exclusive audiobook titles produced by Recorded Books and narrated by award-winning actors. The titles provided by my public library are largely classics.

EBSCO’s Flipster is available for public, academic, and school libraries.  Use the app to find your library, then browse for magazines and download the issues you want for offline reading.

Hoopla Digital offers an app that allows you to instantly borrow, e-books, e-audiobooks, comics, movies, music and more, 24/7 with your library card. Borrowed items automatically return on their due dates. Simply download the Hoopla app ( and sign in with your library card.  There may be very reasonable per-month borrowing limits that will vary from library to library. And, you can now control your Hoopla account through the Amazon Alexa digital assistant. Browsable by a huge number of genres, the catalog may also be browsed in Kids Mode. You’ll find plenty of family-friendly titles across media formats.

Kanopy believes that the films that truly resonate with us do more than just entertain. They inspire us, enrich us, and challenge our perspectives. Hoping to reach viewers around the world, the streaming service works across devices with no fees and no commercials based on its public and university library partnerships.  Hundreds of new titles are added each month and this catalog is packed with classic titles, indie goodies and top documentaries, is a pure delight to browse. (Note: the public library pricing model here is cost-per-play. Libraries pay only for the films their members actually watch.)

Kanopy Kids‘ tagline is Educational, Enriching, Entertaining.  Indeed, this is one impressive collection of educational and engaging videos for kiddos, in fact, the whole family. The About page shares that the catalog is designed to  encourage social and emotional development, promote respect for community diversity, and inspire creativity.  Kanopy for Kids has partnered with Common Sense Media to include developmentally appropriate age ratings.  Select your first film, click on Watch Now and you will be prompted to select your library to authenticate.


The Libby App from Overdrive makes borrowing ebooks and audiobooks super easy. Browse Best Books of the Year, Your Next Great Read, Book Club Picks, To Hot to Hold, top subjects, what’s popular, what’s available, a wide array of genres and several intriguing and quirky lists. (Note that you may have to place holds on most popular titles.)

Sora App for school libraries With Sora, you can get free ebooks and audiobooks from your school.

Tumblebooks is a collection of animated, talking picture books licensed from book publishers. The collection includes both fiction and non-fiction books, along with foreign language titles, Math Stories, Read-Along chapter books, TumbleTV playlists. and Tumble Puzzles and Games. Check to see if your library subscribes to TeenBookCloud for access to young adult ebooks, enhanced novels, graphic novels, videos and audio books across a variety of reading levels.  Some public libraries offer free access to’s high-quality video library of tutorials and courses taught by recognized industry experts. The service is are available five languages.

And, if you give your family member free digital video from their public, library, they may just ask for a database to go with it.

So, here’s a handy map of free databases offerings across the states.

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Joyce Valenza About Joyce Valenza

Joyce is an Assistant Professor of Teaching at Rutgers University School of Information and Communication, a technology writer, speaker, blogger and learner. Follow her on Twitter: @joycevalenza

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