A steady stream of great films, all for free

Brooks Memorial Library cardholders now enjoy access to thousands of movies on their tablets or TVs

BRATTLEBORO — When Turner Classic Movies shut down its popular streaming service Filmstruck last December, an outcry was heard around the nation over the loss of such a great resource for classic Hollywood, foreign, and independent films, including the complete Criterion Collection library.

Such a cinematic treasure trove seemed impossible to find elsewhere on the internet.

Well, not quite.

One of the best-kept secrets is that people can access much of the same deep reservoir of movies, including many titles from the Criterion Collection, through the Kanopy streaming service and app.

However, unlike other streaming services, such as Netflix or Amazon Prime, you can't join Kanopy on your own, but rather must join it through a participating library.

Last year, Brooks Memorial Library added Kanopy as well as RB Digital (which includes Acorn TV) to its on-demand film streaming services.

Both are now available for library patrons without charge thanks to The Friends of the Brooks Memorial Library, an organization that, according to its mission statement “supports the library through advocacy, public relations, and fundraising in order to provide the highest quality library services to the community.”

Library card holders can sign up to start streaming films and television series by visiting Films can be streamed from any computer, television, mobile device, or platform by downloading the appropriate apps for iOS, Android, AppleTV, Chromecast, or Roku.

Award-winning service

Kanopy is an award-winning video streaming service providing access to more than 30,000 titles of unique social and cultural value. Offering what The New York Times calls “a garden of cinematic delights,” Kanopy showcases the world's best films, including award-winning documentaries, festival favorites, indie and classic films, and world cinema.

Collections include Criterion, Kino Lorber, Music Box Films, Samuel Goldwyn, The Orchard, PBS, and thousands of independent filmmakers. Recently, it added virtually the complete catalogue of A20 titles, which includes such popular and award-winning films as Moonlight, Lady Bird, and Room.

On Kanopy, you can find indie hits like Hunt For the Wilderpeople and 2 Days in Paris, classic masterpieces like Aguirre, the Wrath of God and Seven Samurai, and award-winning documentaries like the 2017 Oscar-nominated I Am Not Your Negro and Sundance Film Festival winner Mother of George.

Kanopy also includes films that are more difficult to access. For example, here you can watch, probably for the first time anywhere, the complete works of arguably America's most acclaimed documentary filmmaker, Frederick Wiseman. New titles are added every week.

But there's more: Kanopy is but one facet of the streaming possibilities through Brooks Library.

Recorded Books' ebook and audiobook offerings are already familiar to Brooks Memorial Library patrons. However, the library now offers access to RB Digitals' video library, which includes Acorn TV and The Great Courses video library.

Acorn TV offers world-class mysteries, dramas, and comedies from Britain and beyond through a streaming video service to any web-connected device.

The Great Courses collection offers unlimited access to engaging professors worldwide, enabling patrons to delve into an immersive learning experience on a wide variety of subjects, including history, science, language arts, and many more.

“Libraries are a repository of shared resources,” Brooks Memorial Library Director Starr Latronica says. “When you talk of libraries, most people think of books, and from looking at our shelves that is an obvious response. But libraries go way beyond [their] stacks. From the very beginning, libraries were lending more than just books.”

Latronica believes a library should be a resource to which everyone in the community has access, and that it should offer not just books but also other items residents don't need every day or can't afford.

“In the early days in this country, libraries lent oddball things like tennis rackets,” she adds. “At a time when such amenities were not readily available, you can find reports of libraries even offering public showers. At some libraries you can borrow art works. There actually is a tool lending library in California as part of the Berkeley Public Library system, where patrons can borrow anything from a screwdriver to a chainsaw.”

Unexpected treasures

While you may not be able to pick up a power drill just yet, a streamed movie is hardly the only notable item patrons can borrow from Brooks Memorial Library.

“We have free or reduced-rate passes for nearly 20 museums, parks, and nature centers,” Latronica says. “We also provide rooms when patrons need a private space. When a lawyer was meeting with a couple of his clients recently, he suggested they go to McDonalds, but instead his clients suggested a room in the library for their conference, which we happily provided.”

Only last week, the library started a new service made possible by a grant from Green Street Promise Community, as is described on the library's webpage: “Just in time for winter to really kick in, Brooks Memorial Library is pleased to have added snowshoes and adjustable poles to our catalog. They are loaned on a first-come, first-served, [basis] and are available in several sizes, from childrens' to adult.”

“The snowshoes also come with a backpack filled with items like binoculars to make the outdoor adventure more rewarding,” Latronica says.

Friends of the Library raises the money to pay for many of these extra services, such as the streaming sites the library is offering.

“We are delighted to be offering these services,” Latronica says, “but it couldn't be done without the Friends of the Library.”

Joyce Marcel, president of the Friends of the Library, says, “We're having a lot of success with our streaming opportunities - we had to double our Kanopy budget already. We used up the whole year's stash in half a year, the streaming is so popular. We're amazed.”

“Our new streaming services have proved to be a big hit,” says Brooks reference librarian Jeanne Walsh. “I have always known Brattleboro as a book-loving community, but it also is filled with cinema aficionados.

“We are very special for this size town in regards to film appreciation, as seen by the Latchis Theatre and hosting two film festivals. So it should hardly come as a surprise that many seem eager to take advantage of these streaming opportunities.”

Wide variety

A lover of mysteries, Marcel was thrilled about the addition of Acorn, which offers stellar detective series from Britain.

“We all also got interested in Kanopy after we watched Kedi - The Cats of an Ancient City, the great documentary on Kanopy about the thousands of cats who roam the metropolis of Istanbul freely,” she says. “Then we knew Kanopy was something very special.”

Latronica believes that Brooks is the only library in Windham County offering these new streaming opportunities. Walsh says there may be only six other places in the state offering these services.

You need a library card to access these Brooks Memorial Library streaming services. Library cards are free for Brattleboro residents, business owners, and students in grades 7 through 12 who live out of town but attend school in Brattleboro. But that needn't rule others out.

People outside Brattleboro are welcome to purchase a library borrower card: $32 for six months, $62 for one year, or $110 for two years. Additional members of household for any nonresident card: $5 each per year.

“The setup for streaming on your television or tablet is pretty simple,” Walsh says, “But even so, the task can prove daunting for some technically-phobic people. Please feel free to call the library and we'll gladly give you tips to enable you to stream on your television or tablet.”