A Case for Universal Borrowing

I was using the redbox app on my android phone this weekend to lookup available movies in different boxes across town so I could go directly to the box I needed to and pick up the movie I wanted.


I narrowed it down to two movies, and then used rotten tomatoes to decide on which one to rent. No more lurking at the box scrolling through a list of movies while the next person anxiously waits for you to pick a movie and go.

Many libraries have movies and check out popular titles to patrons for free (yes I know it is not really free…we pay taxes etc…), but the $1.07 is worth it for many reasons.

1. Open 24 hours (not many libraries can compete with that)
2. One step process to access a complete list of (available) movies
3. Universal borrowing (all you need is a credit card to rent a movie. No application necessary)

Most libraries cannot stay open 24 hours a day. So… no way to compete there.

Libraries could simplify the way to get to a list of movies, but it would still involve finding the local library web page etc…

But…The biggest obstacle is that you need a library card to check out movies, and a lot of *my* movie browsing/renting is done on the go when I am traveling. Even if I found a movie at an open library that I wanted to watch it would still mean needing a library card to check it out. Getting a library card is not an easy process, and might be impossible if you don’t live in the area.

I remember in my previous hometown (Gainesville, FL) you had to physically bring in your ID and mail (real mail) you had received from a utility showing that you actually lived in the area and could be tracked down if necessary. This gets harder and harder to do as mail is delivered electronically in an increasing number of circumstances.

I know a number of companies have floated the idea of a single library card that could be used in multiple locations across the country but, I haven’t heard a good explanation of how this would work and who it would work for.

To prevent it from being dependent upon the Integrated Library System (ILS) that a particular library uses I think there should be a standard developed outside of that space that could fit on top of it. Then all the different ILS vendors could develop ways to integrate it into their own products. The incentive to do so would be an increase in patron activity and excitement to use libraries.

All a potential library user would need to do is sign in with a credit card, enter their email address, and check a box indicating they have read/understood a EULA, and they would be on their way. People who do not have access to a credit card could sign up in an alternate fashion at a local branch.

This is not a post advocating that libraries should develop active popular movie collections. Instead I am just trying to make a case for facilitating potential patron use, and advocating a simplified way to get more people to use the library


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