5 ways to get free movies and music from your local library

Today’s public library gives you access to much more than just books and magazines. Your library card can give you free, legal access to streaming movies, TV shows, and music.

While there are many websites and apps that stream movies and music for free, most platforms make money through advertising. The services featured in this article, however, are available through public libraries free of charge and (more importantly) are ad-free.

How to stream entertainment from your local library

In most cases, signing up for these platforms is easy if you’re a cardholder from one of the participating libraries. Simply visit your library’s website or download their app. Search for digital resources and follow the link to the service you want.

You usually sign in to these sites or apps by first identifying your library and then signing in with your library card number. Some platforms may require you to set your password.

Larger platforms often allow you to stack library cards for a higher download or streaming limit. These limits vary depending on your library’s subscription level. Public libraries pay for digital rights on behalf of their patrons, typically with the same budget as the physical books, CDs, and DVDs in their library’s collection.

If you don’t have a library card, visit a local branch of your public library to sign up for one. Some libraries also allow you to sign up for a library card online. While we have linked to these services below, you may need to visit them via the link provided by your library to fully access the content they offer.

Music fans can legally download and save music and music videos through Freegal Music. That is if your library subscribes to Freegal. Music downloads are free from digital rights management (DRM) restrictions and are available for your personal, non-commercial use.

Furthermore, Freegal Music is also an ad-free music streaming service. Your streaming and downloads may be limited depending on your library subscription.

If your library supports downloads, you can save these songs permanently to your computer or phone’s music library for unlimited offline listening. In addition to music files, you can also stream or download music videos. If you choose to download a music video, it counts as two downloads towards your weekly allotment.

Freegal also contains full albums and curated playlists for different activities like workouts. It is configured both to search the catalog for your favorite songs and artists and to browse to explore different types of music.

According to Freegal, their catalog has around 15 million songs and more than 40,000 music videos, including many from the Sony Music catalogue. The catalog changes frequently, with new music added or removed from the platform on a weekly basis.

Freegal offers a web app as well as apps on the Google Play Store, Apple App Store, and Kindle Store.

If you’re an avid eBook reader or audiobook listener, you may already be familiar with Hoopla as a place to borrow free books, comics, and audiobooks. But Hoopla isn’t just for readers; Hoopla also allows you to stream music, movies, and TV shows.

The Hoopla app also allows you to easily switch between adult and child mode, which is handy if you ever let a child watch a video you borrowed from Hoopla using your phone or tablet.

In addition to Hoopla’s internal content library, you can check out a “BingePass” that counts as a borrowed item. A BingePass is seven-day guest access to a content partner like CuriosityStream or Great Courses. A BingePass is different from a free trial in that you can borrow the same BingePass more than once. So anytime you want to binge-watch documentaries, you can check out a BingePass for CuriosityStream or Great Courses.

Hoopla apps are available on the Google Play Store, the Apple App Store, and the Kindle Store. Additionally, Hoopla has streaming channels available on Roku devices, Fire TV, Android TV, Apple TV, and Chromecast.

Kanopy is one of the most common library streaming services. It is currently available through 4,000 libraries in 200 different countries. With Kanopy, you can stream movies, documentaries, children’s programming, and other TV shows. Films include a mix of classic, recent award-winning, international and independent films.

When you stream using Kanopy, “game credits” are the currency used to determine how many shows you can access each month. Your library pays for the rights to each program broadcast, so most libraries give each patron a monthly allotment of streaming credits.

Some content is “play without credit,” including Great Courses, Kanopy Kids, and other videos designated as non-credit viewing. All available non-credit programs are listed on the home page of the Kanopy control panel.

Kanopy Kids is the version for children focused on children between 2 and 8 years old. Presents Sesame Street and other educational programs. To access it, switch between Kanopy and Kanopy Kids within the app.

You can link multiple library cards within a Kanopy account to accumulate your game credit allotment for each library.

Kanopy is available through the Google Play Store, the Apple App Store, and the Kindle App Store. Also, it supports streaming channels for Apple TV, Fire TV, Android TV, Samsung Smart TV, Roku, Chromecast, and Telstra TV.

Ebook and audiobook borrowers are probably already familiar with OverDrive’s Libby Book app. OverDrive has the largest catalog of library media, including eBooks, audiobooks, graphic novels, music, and video content. It also acquired Kanopy, but some libraries stream their digital video through OverDrive.

If your local library uses OverDrive to lend streaming or downloadable movies and shows, you can access them through your library’s website. Movies and shows vary by library, but can include a mix of comedy, drama, action, and children’s features. If you’re not sure where to look, visit your library’s website.

Alexander Street Publishing is more of a niche music and video service than the others already mentioned in this article.

If you want to branch out and try listening to something a little different, Alexander Street Press has you covered. The exact content varies depending on the databases your library subscribes to. These include popular music, dance, opera, classical music, world music, jazz, Smithsonian Global Sound, and archived newscasts.

Alexander Street Library resources include video presentations, streaming music, and audiobooks or podcasts. The central focus is primary source media, so much of the content has an educational, historical, or cultural archival bent.

While the streaming services offered by your public library are unlikely to replace your Netflix or Disney+ subscription, you can still save money by using your library account to stream free movies, TV shows, and music.

And if you can’t find anything worth streaming through your public library, there are plenty of other free and ad-supported streaming services available.

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