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Northland offers free music download program

| Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2014, 9:01 p.m.

If getting free stuff is music to your ears, the Northland Public Library has some noteworthy news for you.

The library now is offering Freegal — a service that enables anyone with a library card to download up to three MP3 songs per week onto a computer or mobile device for free. The service became available county-wide through area libraries last month.

“As word gets out, we expect it to be wildly popular,” said Karen Shah, an adult-services librarian at Northland.

Jim Windsheimer, 55, of McCandless, was happy to hear that Northland is offering Freegal. He has almost 7,000 songs crammed onto his iPod MP3 player and always is looking for more.

“The songs are easy to download, and there's a great selection — some oldies, Elvis Presley, Bruce Springsteen, some good Christian music. I wish there was more classic rock, though,” he said. “But overall, I think it's pretty neat.”

Freegal — which gets its name from combining the words “free” and “legal” — offers music and music videos to users through a website interface with no software to install. All the music is from the Sony music catalog, which has music from more than 28,000 labels.

“There are literally millions of songs available,” said Sarah Beasley, coordinator for e-resources at the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, which secured the funding for local libraries to offer the service.

There also are 5,000 music videos available.

To access Freegal, users can log onto, click on “E-Resources,” and then click on “Music.” Once a selection is made, the site will prompt users for their library card number. Each song counts as one download; music videos count as two. The counter is reset every Monday at 12:01 a.m.

No downloads have any digital-rights-management restrictions, so patrons can transfer songs and music videos from one device to another. And they can keep the songs forever, said Shah, of Ross Township.

“In the first 20 days, approximately 500 library card holders (from participating Allegheny County libraries) downloaded more than 3,000 songs and music videos,” said Beasley, a resident of Pittsburgh's Highland Park neighborhood.

Beasley said the Carnegie Library is paying for the service through state funding and money from the Allegheny Regional Asset District.

Future plans include arranging for local libraries such as Northland to offer Hoopla — another service that partners with libraries to offer thousands of movies and television shows for patrons to download for free.

“Libraries are changing the ways in which they provide services,” Shah said.

“Once people have a library card, it doesn't matter where they are in the country or world; they can still access their local library services — whether it be Freegal, e-books, or something else — as long as they have Wi-Fi. Library cards are becoming a much more valuable resource.”

Laurie Rees is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.

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