Our academic library in New York started a Netflix subscription last Fall. We started out with one account allowing for the maximum number of DVDs, 8 at a time. By the middle of Spring semester, we had two accounts. The New Media professor took over the prior, and we made the new one for all other courses. New Media requires many movies for students to watch. Our library has a very limited budget when it comes to film purchasing, especially popular titles. Netflix has saved us an enormous amount of money (around $3,000) by allowing the physical rentals as well as instant play. The streaming movies have been a great success; instead of students waiting for the one DVD on reserve, they can go to the computer or into the library’s film viewing room, where we have a Roku player set up, and watch the movies on our flat screen TV. The amount we save just having the instant play is significant; it’s almost like having multiple copies of the movie on reserve.
The other departments are taking awhile getting used to the Netflix idea. Most professors seem very happy when they see educational videos available, especially those from PBS. There are hundreds of interesting documentaries available for instant watch, and many more offered in physical form. Even though we have this program, we have still exhausted our DVD budget. For the first time, we are able to purchase high quality educational (Insight Media and Films for the Humanities and Sciences) films that enhance the classroom experience as well. Since we are not paying for any of the popular titles and national released documentaries, we can focus our budget on these more academic materials. I hope many libraries, who are facing hard economic times, consider Netflix as a valuable option. It continues to be cost-effective and easily accessible for the students. It is very rare when you see faculty and students praising a new library program.
UPDATE – Comment from Rebecca: Thank you all for your comments. There have been no legal repurcussions involving our Netflix accounts. The Netflix is addressed to the library and paid with a college credit card. No one from Netflix has questioned this. Our library is not the first to use this program. In an article from Library Trends, Volume 53, Number 3, Ciara Healey, talks of all the benefits a Netflix subscription has to offer an academic library. The article is called “Netflix in an Academic Library: A Personal Case Study,” if any of you are interested in reading it. She does mention the fact that Netflix does not offer institutional subscriptions, so her library resorted to getting their own credit card. I really recommend you read the article. It’s great stuff!
Rebecca Fitzgerald is Acquisitions Librarian/Office Manager at the Scheele Memorial Library Concordia College, New York.