There has been an explosion of interest in streaming media marketed for educational purposes in recent years, and the shift to remote instruction during the pandemic has further accelerated that interest. This growing significance is also reflected in its overall share of library collections budgets: recent Ithaka S+R research found that streaming media currently represents about five percent of those budgets and that academic library directors across a diverse array of institutions project that this will rise to eight percent over the next five years. However, pricing models make it difficult to fully meet patron demands, and the collections remain relatively limited in their content. And, as Kanopy’s recent acquisition by the public library powerhouse OverDrive may suggest, the vendor landscape is shifting rapidly in ways that make it challenging for academic libraries to advocate for their unique needs.

In order to more fully realize streaming media’s academic potential, it is essential for libraries to come together, assess the broader streaming landscape, and create new strategies for licensing and managing streaming use. This intervention will be most effective if libraries can connect on this issue across institutional silos. To this end, Ithaka S+R is launching a new project this fall in collaboration with a cohort of libraries to share evidence about and strategies around streaming media licensing terms. The project will also examine patron practices and needs when working with streaming content.

How will the project work?

The project will pair the most comprehensive US-wide environmental scan-to-date on the landscape of streaming media licensing and library approaches to assessing and managing its use with a targeted assessment of streaming media. We are partnering with a cohort of academic libraries to conduct a deep dive into the streaming context at their institutions and to identify new opportunities for collective strategic interventions in this space. In parallel, Ithaka S+R will also conduct a US-wide survey and a series of targeted follow-up interviews with collections associate university librarians, to evaluate the competitive landscape of streaming media licensing more broadly. 

Ithaka S+R has a unique approach to bringing academic libraries together with shared strategic interests that maximize evidence gathering and cross-institutional dialogue (for a recent example, check out the findings from our project on Big Deal Cancellations). For the Streaming Project, we will first guide our partners in an internal information gathering exercise about the scope of media streaming licensing terms and usage data at their institutions. Based on those preliminary findings, each library will identify patrons to interview about their streaming practices and needs. Ithaka S+R will develop the research instruments and train the partners in the research methods. We are also available to conduct interviews and produce a locally tailored analysis if the partners prefer. 

Throughout the project the partnering institutions will convene at critical junctures, including to preview findings and discuss their strategic implications. After analyzing both the survey results and the interview transcripts collected by our partners, Ithaka S+R will publish the findings.

How can my library get involved?

We are thrilled that the following institutions have confirmed their participation in the project:

  • Brigham Young University
  • Central Washington University
  • Davidson College
  • Freie Universität Berlin
  • Georgetown University
  • Haverford College
  • Johns Hopkins University
  • Sewanee: The University of the South
  • University of Delaware
  • University of Maryland
  • University of Pittsburgh
  • University of Virginia
  • University of Wyoming

Our work will begin in October, and we are able to include several additional institutions. If you are interested in your library joining our project, we welcome expressions of interest, please contact Danielle Cooper ( by August 24, 2021.