Parkway Central Branch of the Free Library of Philadelphia (Miguel Martinez/Billy Penn)

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Good news for lovers of movies and free entertainment: the Free Library of Philadelphia has brought back cardholder access to Kanopy.

The library’s system-wide subscription to the movie and TV-streaming platform allows cardholders to stream from a collection of more than 3,000 titles from their homes with no limits, including documentaries, Oscar-winning movies, international films, and kid-focused entertainment. The service was back up and running as of Tuesday.

“We are overjoyed to resume access to Kanopy,” Free Library Director Kelly Richards said in a press release. “It was a popular service with many of our patrons, and adds another way that Philadelphians can access the Free Library from the comfort of their homes.”

The library system discontinued Kanopy access in summer 2021, citing the high cost relative to the number of people who took advantage of it. The library also dropped Hoopla, a platform that offers access to movies and TV as well as other types of media, like audio books, e-books, music, and comics. Between 2,000 and 7,000 patrons used the two services every month.

The total cost for the 2022 fiscal year for Kanopy and Hoopla would have been half a million dollars if they’d continued it, library officials said, and it made more sense to direct that money toward physical materials.

But Kanopy PLUS (Public Library Unlimited Subscriptions), a new service launched last September, changed things.

Previously, the cost of the streaming service was based on the number of streams, which was “unsustainable and unpredictable,” according to a library press release. Each stream would cost the library between $0.99 and $4.99, the Free Library’s interim director told Billy Penn in 2021, and patrons could only access a limited number of titles per month.

The new Kanopy model offers public libraries a flat rate based on their annual circulation numbers and allows patrons to stream an unlimited amount of material.

Hoopla, however, isn’t slated for a comeback — it still has the same high price tag, Free Library spokesperson Kaitlyn Foti Kalosy told Billy Penn.

“Our materials management team is constantly investigating both old and new products and services, particularly those that offer a set-price model … which allows us to make use of our increased budget in a fiscally responsible way,” Kalosy said.

How to access Kanopy through the Free Library

Before anything else, you’ll need a library card. (Here’s a guide on how to get one.)

You can stream movies on Kanopy from your computer’s web browser, or from the app available for iOS, Android, and Roku devices.

First, you have to make sure you’re signed up for the service.

If you’ve never used Kanopy before, you can visit freelibrary.kanopy.com and click the orange “add a library card” button. Enter your card number and PIN to create an account, verify your account through the link they send to your email address, and you’re ready to go.

If you did use Kanopy before the original service was discontinued, you can log in using your existing account. Click the “add your library card” button — typing in your Free Library card number and PIN should reactivate your membership.

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Asha Prihar

Asha Prihar is a general assignment reporter at Billy Penn. She has previously written for several daily newspapers across the Midwest, and she covered Pennsylvania state government and politics for The...