Liz Farrell

Farrell: Beaufort County library card-holders, get ready to eat, pray and supergluck

A screenshot of hoopladigital.com
A screenshot of hoopladigital.com hoopladigital.com

Sometimes I have to go to the Bluffton library with a $20 bill.

This is my fine money, the money I've come to expect to spend whenever I take out a library book.

Due date? I don't think I even listen when the librarian says what it is.

I'm not taking out this book to read, apparently. I'm taking it out as a symbol of my best intentions. I'm taking it out to say that I'm the type of person who uses her resources wisely and goes to the library instead of downloads a book to Kindle.

The truth is, I'm the type of person who holds onto a book far longer than she is entitled to, to the point that someone else can't read it, then pays the equivalent of the Kindle price in fines.

I'm thankful the sheriff doesn't get involved.

But there is hope for me.

Overnight Sunday, the Beaufort County Library system more than doubled its lending inventory and flew right past 2015 and into "the Bright and Modern Future" by allowing library card holders to sign up for Hoopla, which library director Ray McBride described to me as "Netflix on steroids."

Hoopla is digital-only and, in addition to offering eBooks and comic books, it allows us to stream movies, music and audiobooks on our mobile devices, PCs and Apple TV -- without leaving our homes.

"I call it the new model," McBride said. "Fifty-thousand people can check out the same item at once."

On Monday morning, I was one of the first 61 people in Beaufort County to get an account.

I don't know why I expected the sign-up process to be difficult. Maybe because the library is a publicly funded entity, and publicly funded entities tend to play catch-up with technology, but I half-expected to see this notice on Hoopla's page, "To sign up for this website, please go to your local library where you should wait in line for a librarian who will inevitably be waiting on someone in front of you who has a lot of loud but mysterious problems. If you are still there when she is done with that person, she will hand you a form, which you should fill out before getting back in line. This should be filled out in pen and not using 3-inch mini-golf pencil stubs. We don't have a pen to lend you. We do have many mini-golf pencil stubs. After the librarian approves the form, the form must be stamped with a Literal Inked Stamp from the branch manager who is at lunch right now, so please have a seat. After you've paid the Surprise Cash Deposit of a single dollar that you would totally just hand the librarian if you had one but since you never carry cash we'll wait while you locate the 85 cents in your purse and we'll wait while you run to car where, after much searching and sweating, you only find an additional dime. We'll also wait while you go to the ATM to get a large bill that we don't have change for. After you have paid your deposit, the librarian will then write an access code on a piece of scrap paper that she made earlier using forgotten pages in the printer and a very dull paper cutter ... assuming you made it back from the ATM before we closed for the day, of course."

But no, I was browsing within seconds and planning my 10 monthly downloads. I almost feel bad for thinking otherwise.

Beaufort County, which is the fourth in the state to sign up for Hoopla, used a piece of the $105,000 in unclaimed lottery prize money that was made available to it by South Carolina this year.

Which leads me to two thoughts: One, thank you to South Carolina and state Sen. Tom Davis, who McBride said was instrumental in getting us this money. And two, WHO DOESN'T CLAIM THEIR PRIZE MONEY? WHAT ARE YOU DOING WITH YOUR LIVES?

But also, thank you for not having it together.

The library put $25,000 into its Hoopla account, and our usage will draw down from that. Each download costs the library between 99 cents and $3.29.

I took a look at Hoopla's inventory on Monday morning, and though it's not exactly as culturally with-it as say, HBOGo, Netflix, Hulu, iTunes, Audible or Amazon, there's plenty to work with there.

Familiar titles such as "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up" and "Silver Linings Playbook" pop up among the serendipitous offerings typical of a library, that is, books you've never heard of and would probably never buy, but now that you've seen the title you're intrigued.

Like "Coconut Oil for Beginners" or the film "401K Magic."

I searched for one of my favorite for-a-good-time authors, Marian Keyes, and got "Mittelgrosses Supergluck," which is apparently the German audiobook version of her latest book, "The Woman Who Stole My Life."

Is a supergluck a woman? Or a stolen life? I don't know, but it's a good thing Hoopla also offers "German in Minutes" and "Learn German Fast."

McBride likes to read historical nonfiction and has already given Hoopla a test-drive.

"As a matter of fact," he said. "I watched a World War II movie call 'Allies' over the weekend."

One thing I'm looking forward to is taking out self-help books with no one but the hackers ever knowing.

Hoopla has so many body, mind and spirit books that no library card-holder will ever find herself wondering how to eat, pray or love.

Nor will she ever find herself wondering how to pay off her library debt.

TO SIGN UP

Go to https://www.hoopladigital.com and click Log In. Follow the prompts for a new account. You'll be asked for your email address and to create a Hoopla password. Have your library card handy and when asked, type in all the numbers on the back of it.

Follow columnist and senior editor Liz Farrell at twitter.com/elizfarrell and facebook.com/elizfarrell.

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