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Circulating a Roku for Streaming Videos

   October 21st, 2015

rokulogoRecently, my Library bought a Roku to start circulating to patrons. I loved this idea, because it solved a problem that has been annoying me for years.

Awhile ago, sometimes when we bought DVDs, they would come with an "ultraviolet" version in addition to the physical disc. The ultraviolet version was a digital copy - which of course the library couldn't really use, because it could only be downloaded to one device. So we'd get the codes for ultraviolet copies, and just throw them away. It wasn't really costing the library money, but I did not like that we were just throwing away a resource.

Then another nearby library got the idea to use a Roku to offer these videos to patrons. Their method was to create a Vudu library of all their ultraviolet movies, and then connect the Roku to that account. That way, patrons could check out the one Roku device, and use it on their home wi-fi network to have access to all of the movies we had ultraviolet licenses to stream. Nice.

Since they already had worked out the details, we just bought our own Roku and copied what they did. We're also adding all the ultraviolet titles to the catalog record, so the Roku shows up if someone searches for Still Alice or Paul Blart Mall Cop.

Our Roku circulates for one week, cannot be renewed, but can be requested. We're also circulating it in a padded case that comes with a remote control, various cables to connect it to the patron's television or digital projector, power supply, and instructions:


We, and a few other libraries, are only using it to stream our ultraviolet titles. But another library paid for a Netflix subscription with a gift card, so patrons can stream anything from that Netflix subscription. They've set up additional channels as well, which we haven't done (yet?).

We need to do a better job of promoting it's available, but I don't know that any patron would check this out just for the sake of watching movies on a Roku. Unlike checking out a telescope to use the telescope, I see this as more like a Playaway - patrons will check it out to get access to the content it contains, not for the experience of using this format. And at only $50 for the device, it's a great way to stop throwing away the ultraviolet titles.

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14 Responses to “Circulating a Roku for Streaming Videos”

  1. Cari Dubiel Says:

    Some of the Ohio libraries have been doing this for a while. We plan to do it in 2016. I’ve been saving the Ultraviolet codes. It’s cool that you can put it in the catalog… we can’t because of the consortium membership. Looks like you got the case from Amazon?

  2. Peggy O'Kane Says:

    What a cool idea.

  3. Andrew Zintl Says:

    It sounds like a good idea. Are there any copyright issues with doing this?

  4. Brian Herzog Says:

    @Cari: that’s great – I suspected it was already happening. Have you heard how it’s working for other Ohio libraries? We’re part of a consortium too, but they allow us to set up individual records – so, every MVLC library that has a Roku has it’s own record (which does lead to it’s own problems, of course). And funny, but yes, that is an Amazon case – I think one of our staff people brought it in from home for us to use.

    @Peggy: I agree! Especially for getting to use the ultraviolet copies.

    @Andrew: I haven’t investigated this thoroughly myself, but I don’t think so. Since we’re not making any additional copies of anything beyond what we got at the time of purchase, and only one patron can be using these at a time, I think that first sale doctrine applies here just like it does for loaning out books or DVDs or anything else. Setting up our own streaming server would probably be a different story though.

  5. Brian Herzog Says:

    @Andrew: The librarian in Billerica just forwarded this note about Netflix and copyright:

    “I called the Netflix again today for confirmation and they said public libraries are ok but with the growing use of Netflix the copyright policy might get stricter, so I have decided to play safe and get Netflix off the Roku. I had full confirmation from them few months ago but unfortunately things don’t stay the same.”

    That’s too bad, because “Netflix” is a much more eyecatching thing to offer than “Roku.”

  6. andrea herman Says:

    It’s too bad it can’t be combined with Hoopla, since it’s designed for libraries:


    Maybe someday!

  7. Brian Herzog Says:

    @Andrea: that is a great idea. Hoopla has always seemed pretty responsive, so I’ll ask our rep if they can add a Roku channel. I have no idea what that entails, but you’re right, it would be great for patrons.

  8. Brian Herzog Says:

    @andrea: I heard back from the reps as Midwest Tape and Hoopla, and they said a Roku tie-in is in the works. Still a few months away, and no ETA, but they are working on it – which is great. They also said that hoopla digital works with Apple TV and, as of last week, hoopla works with Chromecast but just with Android devices as this time, they are working in iOS device release next. So, progress!

  9. Alyssa Mandel Says:

    Actually, I’m the lone weirdo that WOULD want to borrow it for the device itself. My husband and I are exploring ways to divest ourselves from cable and we’re examining the Roku, AppleTV, Chromecast and the Firestick, so I’d actually love to check one out and just work with it for a week for usability testing purposes.

  10. Brian Herzog Says:

    @Alyssa: ha, there is nothing wrong with that. In fact, I’d be curious to hear the results of your comparison. I hope you’re able to find one that works the way you like.

  11. ChiLibrarian Says:

    We recently stopped circulating Rokus. Unfortunately, they all (4) became infested with roaches. That was a first for us. And horrifying.

    We also learned that they really hold cigarette smoke odors well. We did have subscriptions from Netflix, Amazon and Hulu for each device.

    Interestingly, although they were checked out regularly, when we withdrew them, no one complained.

    Here’s hoping that the wifi hotspots we just started checking out remain bug-free!

  12. Brian Herzog Says:

    @ChiLibrarian: now THAT is horrible. I feel like there should be some Tech Services trick to eradicate roaches from Rokus (like smells from books), but some things might be beyond fighting for. That’s interesting about the smells though, and good to know – I’ll let my coworkers know to watch for that. I feel very bad for your library for this, and I agree – hopefully the hotspots won’t suffer the same. Man.

  13. The Librarian With No Name Says:

    Oof. I hadn’t thought of that, but a Roku would be a really tempting hideaway for roaches. Mostly hollow, and with all sorts of ports to squeeze into.

    You can freeze the sort of circuit board in a Roku without too much trouble, as long as you seal it in a plastic bag and let it warm back up to room temperature before opening the bag to prevent condensation. If this is a recurring problem, it might be worth building in a 24-hour freeze cycle every time a Roku is returned. As a bonus, if you’re using the break room freezer you can get some of those fake ice cubes with roaches inside for April Fool’s Day.

    You could also store the devices in a small air-tight container with several packets of silica gel. Roaches and their eggs can’t survive long in low-humidity environments, but you’d want to keep them sealed for at least three days to avoid spreading roaches to your patrons’ houses. This could be a minor problem if they’re really popular items. I guess you could also throw in an odor-eating sole insert to deal with the smoke issue.

    Best solution: find someone with a 3-D printer to make you a refillable bait station that you can glue to the bottom of the Roku. Brand it as a “Roachu,” go on Shark Tank, and retire wealthy.

  14. Brian Herzog Says:

    @The Librarian: yes, thank you – our Tech Services librarian is now looking forward to all of these things (and second-guessing this whole Roku idea).