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Hidden Talent: How to stream movies for free using your LA library card

Los Angeles Public Library
Los Angeles Public Library
Los Angeles Public Library

The Los Angeles Public Library may be one of the most underused and underrated resources available to the LA actor. In addition to letting us borrow books and plays from their immense private collection for weeks on end, for free! (I mean, who does that??), they provide an amazing array of other freebies to their patrons, such as internet and computer access, research assistance, music collections (free sheet music, anyone?), lecture series, top of the line research tools accessible from home (i.e., one of my favs, the OED), and a respectable, ever-growing collection of e-Media. All you need is a library card.

Last year, LAPL released what they described as a “Netflix-style service” of its very own. Since then, they've been expanding a quite respectable e-Media collection. They have categorized their movie and video options by vendors, listing the services each vendor provides. Not all of the vendor catalogs are integrated into the LAPL’s catalog, so it pays to look at each vendor’s link, and either bookmark the page or download the apps.

LAPL's Collection

While their general movie collection carries the expected exercise DVDs, children’s titles and instructional series, it also includes top-notch documentaries, foreign films, British television series, classic movies, and yes, features. Their feature selection is growing as funds are available: they even provide a request page where you can vote to add specific titles. There are a limited number of ‘copies’ available in some instances, so you may have to wait in the queue, but you’re used to that if you’ve ever used Netflix, and this is free, so, happy dance!

For those of you who are old school, don’t worry: you can borrow physical DVDs (or even VHS tapes) from your local branch, too: entertainment DVDs are loaned for two days, documentary DVDs for one week. Both are now renewable online: you can get your niece to help you.


Hoopla may be used on your PC, tablet or smartphone. They allow the download of up to 10 different titles per month. Their categories are easy to browse through, and designed similarly to those of Netflix (i.e., new releases, comedies, biographies, foreign films, classics by decade). They make it really easy to find hidden gems that you may have missed in-between all the blockbuster and tent-pole advertising campaigns.

Hoopla’s collection isn't integrated directly into the LAPL Catalog, so be sure to use their page or app to see what’s available. Their titles are newer, and include some excellent series options: I just reserved Portlandia.


This digital media service is the other major film provider currently partnering with LAPL. They do require additional software, such as a tablet app, but it's all integrated quite nicely into the LAPL site once you're in. Grab your library card, go to the LAPL’s E-media page, then the OverDrive link, to get started.


For perhaps more expected library fare, and for local history buffs, LA in Focus is a unique series of photos and lectures on Los Angeles history. This is the sort of thing that may be useful when researching local characters for your next film.

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