Free Netflix Rentals For Brooklyn Residents?

The Brooklyn Public Library may replace its DVD inventory with a Netflix subscription. According to the NY Post, talks are underway to offer free Netflix deliveries to any Brooklyn resident with a library card. The proposal makes sense when you consider the challenge of maintaining a DVD collection in fifty-eight branches.

“DVDs are very expensive to buy, and they’re also very expensive to move because they’re delicate,” Vitali said.

“Instead of buying the DVDs, we’d be outsourcing from Netflix to, in effect, create a free inventory of DVDs that would be available to our customers.”

One possible snag. Netflix isn’t aware talks are underway, and a spokesman “seemed surprised by the news.” Still, this is a landmark idea we would love to see broadly implemented, even if it meant interacting with the Brooklyn post office. — CAREY GREENBERG-BERGER



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  1. 5h17h34d says:

    Yea, Netflix will just love the idea of giving away their rentals for free.

  2. Buran says:


    Uhm, libraries aren’t free. All those books they have are paid for from their budget. Which comes from citizens’ taxes. It won’t be free — the cost would just be spread equally among taxpayers. Just like library cards already are.

  3. Katharine says:

    I bet the amount of people with library cards will drastically increase.

  4. Islingtonian says:

    woohoo! i already have a brooklyn library card!

  5. SimonGodOfHairdos says:

    I would assume that the Brooklyn Public Library system would have to take the money in its budget that is allocated for DVDs, and spend that money on a certain number of Netflix memberships. Though I still don’t understand how the library would ever be able to determine which movies are available to take out and which aren’t. Will the library set up its own giant queue, and then patrons will only be able to choose from the DVDs in the library at the time they are visiting?

  6. kendra.e says:

    At first this seems like a great idea, but I think it has some problems. Right now in theory at least, what you check out from the library is between you and the librarian. I don’t think everyone who presently checks out movies from the public library would want a private company having that info. Also, what if you don’t have a street address? Do they just send the movies to the library? Or what if you are working on a paper and want to check out a documentary for something that is due tomorrow?

  7. brooklynbs says:

    Sounds like the library official is talking out of his ass.

    There’s no upside to this type of relationship for Netflix (a deal like this would effectively eliminate a 2.5 million person market) and the company spokesperson was surprised by the “news”.

    Likewise, the library official’s comment about DVDs being expensive suggests that he hasn’t been into a Best Buy lately, and his comment about DVDs being “delicate” and “expensive to move” suggest that he doesn’t even know how Netflix works.

    Anyway, I’m a Brooklyn resident, library user and Netflix subscriber, and I don’t see this happening.

  8. 5h17h34d says:

    Buran: you missed the point *entirely*.

    Netflix is a for-profit organization. The library is not. Do you think Netflix will actually let the library eat into their profits?


    Hear that? Thats the sound of people all rushing to get library cards and cancelling their Netflix accounts. Or was it the sound of the point going right over your head?

  9. TimSPC says:

    In theory, the BPL would be paying Netflix for all those subscriptions. The libraries already stock DVDs. They’re just wondering out loud if it would be cheaper to buy everyone in Brooklyn a Netflix account than to actually maintain their own DVD library.

  10. xanax25mg says:

    The math behind this idea utterly eludes me. According to 2000 census data, 2.5 million people live in Brooklyn, so there’s 2.5 eligible public library patrons. I’m not sure of the intracacies of the NYPL system, but it’s likely neighborhing boroughs get borrowing privileges also, so there’s a potential 12 million people that have Brooklyn library access. But sticking with just the 2.5 million, if each of them got a basic Netflix account at $10, that would be $300 million dollars a year the library system would pay out. Now obviously assuming Netflix wanted any part of this (and god knows why they would) there would be some sort of bulk discount, but even if we halve that it would be $150 mil a year for people to get DVD’s. I cannot imagine any system can justify that cost, and certainly that cannot be cheaper than buying DVD’s for the 66 branches.

  11. RumorsDaily says:

    A more sensible version, from everyone’s point of view, would be for the library to sign up for, say, a hundred Netflix accounts. You would request a movie from the library online, and the library would order it from Netflix. When it arrives, they send you an email letting you know that your movie has arrived and you can come pick it up.

    It wouldn’t be distinguishable from an ordinary library movie service except insofar as the selection would be a lot larger and you’d need to wait a day or two before you could get your movie.

    It’s unlikely that everybody in Brooklyn would cancel Netflix due to the relative inconvenience of such a system. But, if you’re money-poor and time-rich, this would be great for you. And, realistically, this is who the library is catering to anyway.

  12. SexCpotatoes says:

    How long until they start throttling every last purchased netflix account?

  13. deweydecimated says:

    As a librarian (no, not in Brooklyn) I’m trying to balance the pros and cons of this kind of arrangement:

    1) Not having to house an ever-growing DVD collection – although surely some titles would warrant being physically (ie, immediately when checked in) available?

    2) Having access to more obscure titles without having to purchase a copy. Few library systems include non-print media in their Interlibrary Loan policies, and even fewer will want to purchase The Epic Movie About Yam-Growers In A Lonely South American Village. (Yam-lovers, no hatin’, please.)


    1) Quite frankly, DVDs are high on the never-returned items list. Speaking of which, do you have patrons return the DVDs to the library or do you have them return them straight to Netflix – and how do you make sure they know what to do? How do you handle the “whoops I sent it in my regular Netflix envelope” problem for people who use both the library’s Netflix and their own accounts? From what I’ve read about Netflix, they don’t return mistakenly-sent-in items, so it would probably be in the library’s best interests to handle all checkin/return-to-Netflix themselves – which could be a burden on staff if the service is very popular.

    2) If your library is using Netflix, how do you determine when an item is just not being returned versus “well, Netflix has no late fees so I’m not in a rush to turn it in”? How do you set a return date and late fee policy that conflicts with how Netflix does business? And how do you integrate Netflix “checkouts” to the regular circulation system so that patron responsibilities can be tied to Netflix items?

    3) Short of just telling patrons to look on Netflix’s site, which would currently require logging in with a username and password for complete access, how do you convey what titles are available?

    Having done a little research (hey, I _am_ a librarian) while composing this, I see a couple of small libraries that have a Netflix link – one gives the username on its webpage, and requires the library patron to contact the library to get the password (which gives the staff the ability to confirm that the person is an actual patron, and to implement whatever policies it has – such as, if you have fines about $x, no Netflix for you). But this does require a lot of trust to be implemented this way – I don’t think it could work beyond a very small library.

    There is another article (
    about libraries that mail their patrons’ holds to them, and compares that to Netflix, but to me that sounds like they’re only comparing the delivery aspect and neglecting the biggest benefit of a true Netflix-like partnership: availability of many more titles without having to purchase them. A better comparison to Netflix would be the subscriptions that libraries hold to online databases, audio downloads and other services that offer patrons much more content that the library can physically hold, and in most cases, allow patrons access to materials from home 24/7.

    Personally, I think the pros of a Netflix or Netflix-like service for libraries outweigh the cons, and would love to see more information as library systems experiment with this.