As days get colder and binge-watching season hits full swing, Dakota County residents can stream movies and TV shows for free with nothing more than a library card.

The county library system has added the online streaming service Hoopla, which offers a selection of films, TV shows, audiobooks, e-books and digital comic books. A soft launch on Monday opened the more than 400,000-item collection up to anyone with a Dakota County library card.

“We know that people are utilizing streaming services such as Netflix to access content, and it’s just a much more convenient way to provide materials,” said Ben Trapskin, deputy director.

Users can check out up to five items per month, and the libraries will be charged per use. The initial budget for the program is $50,000, but Trapskin said that number could rise depending on demand.

The Austin Public Library in southern Minnesota has offered Hoopla for about two years. Patrons there can check out 15 items per month, up from 10 when the program first rolled out.

Ann Hokanson, director of the Austin library, said the library board was skeptical when Hoopla was first proposed.

“ ‘What? You’re paying to rent the material, you’re not going to own the material?’ It’s a little weird. But really, the way I think about it is, it’s a cheaper version of interlibrary loan,” she said, referring to a system through which patrons can request an item from another library if their local library doesn’t have it.

And unlike typical materials requests, Hoopla doesn’t have waiting lists or late fees. Items appear when requested and disappear when the borrowing period is up.

It’s unlikely that Hoopla will replace traditional library borrowing, but Trapskin said he expects fewer people will check out DVDs when they can stream instead.

“We’re just really excited to see how our patrons use it,” he said. “We’re always thinking of new ways to make our collection more convenient to our users, so I think this is a step in the right direction.”