BETHLEHEM — The Bethlehem Public Library has debuted Kanopy, a new streaming platform, this month that offers a rich collection of films, documentaries, children entertainment and educational content to its library cardholders.
Kanopy is home to more than 30,000 acclaimed independent and classic films, foreign films, college-level courses called the Great Courses, the Criterion Collection and more content from PBS, Kino Lorber, Music Box Films, Samuel Goldwyn, The Orchard and other independent filmmakers. The Great Courses are video courses on topics like fine arts, history, literature, mathematics, economics and more.
This connected to how Kanopy brands itself as offering “thoughtful entertainment.” In terms of modern films, it would not necessarily have the latest blockbuster ones like “Avengers: Endgame” (2019) but it has more thought-provoking films including “Melancholia” (2011), “Lady Bird” (2017) and “Moonlight” (2016).
Kanopy is available as a downloadable app for smartphones, tablets and certain smart TVs like Roku, AppleTV and Chromecast. It is free to anyone with an active Bethlehem Library Card after a quick authentication process. “Users already pay their library taxes so they pay for everything we have here, whether it’d be e-magazines, e-audiobooks and physical products,” said Gordon Noble, the library’s manager for information and readers’ advisory. “So Kanopy is sort of free but not free. It depends on how you want to look at it.”
A user can click on the eContent graphic link on the library’s home page at www.bethlehempubliclibrary.com to get started.
Kanopy is an Australian-based video streaming platform which was originally founded in 2008 and it offers streaming content for public libraries and universities. Now headquartered in San Francisco, its navigational menu is similar to Netflix’s.
Noble said the Bethlehem Public Library began considering to introduce a streaming service for its cardholders a few years ago. As more local residents expressed interest in having one in the past two years alone, it led to connecting with Kanopy and the library launched it on Nov. 1 for a one-year experiment.
“It’s always about how well it works with our patrons and we hope we get a lot of feedback because this is very much patron-driven,” Noble said. “Once our patrons start to really ask for a streaming service like this, we take a harder push with companies that offer it and work to negotiate better contracts. Kanopy is developing its name brand.”
The library will report to Kanopy officials regarding its success rate throughout the coming year and in late 2020, reconvene to discuss whether to continue it or not.
Noble said he is the main person who has negotiated the contracts for e-content and databases, including Kanopy, and works with two other department heads on reviewing analytics and reporting on its usage.
He added that the Nov. 1 launch date felt optimal since premiering it in December may feel too late as new streaming services like Apple TV+ also came out on Nov. 1 and Disney+ was released on Tuesday, Nov. 12. “I was concerned and we’re never going to be able to compete with them or Hulu or Netflix which are much more current, but there’s absolutely a niche for Kanopy in our community,” he said.
Geoffrey Kirkpatrick, the library’s director, brought up that streaming “is maybe not a saturated market but more like the Wild West, and I think that the movies on Kanopy are not as well-represented in other streaming services because they are historically significant, foreign movies and popular films from the past that may not get the representation they should have. I think it fills a gap in representation.”
Kirkpatrick added that BPL will continue maintaining a physical DVD/film collection for users to enjoy but Kanopy helps to alleviate the concern of limited content and space in the library. “Will that collection shrink in years to come? It all depends on shrinking demand in DVDs then which might happen, then possibly it can,” he said. “We’re in the middle of Kanopy’s launch now so it’ll be a question for the library board and staff on how we’ll allocate space in the library in time. But we are not canceling the collection just because Kanopy’s here now.”
Both men also noted that if any user does not feel tech-savvy, know how to set up or navigate around Kanopy, librarians are available to help them with any questions and demonstrations. “That’s always a concern and if you’re really struggling with our services, we’ll set up a one-on-one appointment with you, the patron, and walk them through the process to help them out,” said Noble.
Kristen Roberts, who does communications for the library, said the Kanopy has a “pretty intuitive interface to navigate and they’ve done a lot of work on that and it looks like Netflix. If you’re Netflix-level experienced, I think you can easily navigate Kanopy.” Noble also said a user can easily search on Kanopy for works involving a specific actor, director or genre.
While Kirkpatrick said it feels too early to speak on what the public reaction has been like since Kanopy’s launch, a streaming service like it has been desired by patrons already. “I’m just really excited and again, if anyone has any hiccups or trouble with the experience, don’t feel afraid to come into the library and the librarians are literally here to answer questions,” he concluded.
For more information, visit bethpl.kanopy.com or www.bethlehempubliclibrary.org/borrow/ebooks-emagazines.