Another Reason to Support Libraries: Free MP3s

    Hello, my name is Dan (Hi, Dan) and I’m a public library user. I’ve been a card-carrying member for… as long as I can remember. I’ve tried browsing bookstores. I had a membership at 20/20 Video for a stretch. I even did Netflix for about a year. But I’ve always come back to the library. It’s gotten a lot harder to quit the library, because of this new service called Freegal Music.

    It’s basically a free music service that allows members of select libraries across the country to download a limited number of DRM-free MP3s. Most of the libraries currently offering this service limit the downloads to three tracks per week. Libraries include: Douglas County, Colo.; Seattle, Wash.; Santa Clara, Calif.; Hillsdale, N.J.; Orange County, Fla.; and Northern Onondaga, N.Y.

    The files are culled from the Sony Music Catalog. As Seattle Public Library notes, this “includ[es] current hits like Ke$ha’s ‘TiK ToK,’ classic songs such as Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Born to Run,’ jazz standards like Dave Brubeck’s ‘Take Five’ and more.” Now you can think of your local branch (if you live in one of the aforementioned cities/counties) as your local torrent — at a 16 kb/s dial-up rate.

    On a more serious note, use of this service has stirred a debate in the library community over whether libraries are becoming buyers instead of lenders on behalf of users. It’s a relevant debate, but also a reminder that the Freegal model is strangely dated as personal storage is transitioning towards mass access via a cloud. So, how should libraries play a role to stay relevant?