Freegal is music to library patrons' ears

Patrons of the Liverpool Public Library and Northern Onondaga Public Library can now enjoy downloading songs from the Sony Music Entertainment catalog to their MP3 players for free.

The two libraries are the first ones in the area to purchase a licensing agreement for Freegal from Sony Music Entertainment. The service allows users with a library card to download a certain number of songs each week.

At Liverpool's library, the limit is three songs per patron per week. Freegal has been a big hit with users there.

"Everybody's loving it because it's incredibly easy," said Diane Towlson, Liverpool Public Library's community relations representative. "You put in your number and pin (personal identification number) and you go and pick what you want. It actually downloads faster than iTunes. As long as you have a Liverpool library card and your pin number you can do it from home."

The music catalog includes hundreds of thousands of songs from several genres, but the libraries did some research before signing up for the service to make sure Freegal was worth the expense.

"They talked to libraries out of state that have it and they will never go backwards on it. None of them regret it. They all love it. Everybody that has done it is impressed and happy."

In Liverpool, the addition of Freegal is part of the continuing effort of the library's staff to widen its outreach through technology.

"Jean [LPL director Jean Armour Polly] has been very proactive on realizing that libraries aren't just about books anymore," Towlson said." "Everything's gone very digital and she felt that this was a better way to spread the music around, give everybody access to it, put them on an equal level and they get to pick what they want."

The LPL will continue to loan out CDs too, Towlson said.

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