All you need is a local library card.

By Liz Steelman
Updated August 07, 2017
KatarzynaBialasiewicz/Getty Images

Renting a must-watch movie from your local library always seemed like a risky endeavor. For one, there was that pesky $1 a day overdue charge on a three-day rental. And even if you were usually careful, you'd eventually end up with quite a fine. Of course, there were always those less in-demand DVDs that could be borrowed for longer periods of time, but many of them were hit or miss (they were still on the shelf for a reason). Of course, now most people opt for a streaming service like Netflix or Amazon Prime Video, but nothing beats the back catalog (and price!) of a visit to the library when you’re looking for an old favorite. But thanks to Kanopy, a new video streaming service, those pains of library video rental might be in the past.

Kanopy is an on-demand video streaming service, much like Netflix or Hulu, with more than 26,000 films in its database. Though you won’t find the latest Hollywood blockbuster or hot new soap opera serial, you will find many thoughtful, engaging films and filmed programs from around the world. The site works with prestige providers such as PBS, The Criterion Collection, and Music Box Films to bring documentaries, indie, foreign and hard-to-find classic films worth exploring.

The best part? Rather than hitting consumers with a monthly membership charge, the service works with libraries—both public and university—to provide cardholders with access to the service for free. Each library allows their members a certain amount of rentals per month. Once you begin to watch the film, you have three days to finish it.

Last week, Kanopy made headlines when both the New York Public Library and Brooklyn Public Library announced they were partnering with the service and would offer their cardholders access to the database of films. But NYC isn’t the first library system to offer the service to its members—LA Public Library and Boulder Public Library systems have already offered the service to their members, as well as 4,000 other libraries around the world.

To see if your library offers the service, click here to use their library search tool. Once you've identified your library, all you’ll need to start streaming is an account and your library card number.