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David Ratledge 


Digital Signage in Libraries

David Ratledge

Digital signage is a common sight in many public places such as sports venues, hotels, conference centers, and the like. Some are static screens that are display-only while some are touch screens that allow for varying degrees of interactivity. If your library does not have digital signage, perhaps it is time to consider adding it. Libraries always have information to communicate that changes on a daily, if not hourly, basis. Digital signage can be an effective tool for communicating news and information as well as for promoting library services and events.

While it is possible to invest a great deal of money and time in creating content and managing digital signage, this no longer has to be the case. There are multiple ways to implement digital signage, enough so that it should be possible for a library of any size and budget to find it within their means.

The least expensive route takes the do-it-yourself approach. It is possible, for example, to put together one or more digital signs using low-cost flat screen televisions and Chromeboxes, Mac minis, or Mini PCs running free digital signage content player software. The main things to be careful about are matching the video output connections of the computers with the input connections of the screens, making sure the computer types purchased are capable of running the free content player software chosen, and making sure staff have the skills and tools needed to create content according to the content player software requirements.

Moving toward the other end of the scale, if the funds are available and it is preferable to purchase a more complete and capable turn-key system, there are many options to choose from at all pricing levels. In addition to digital signage being a source of everyday information, it can also be used for local emergency alerting, such as during severe weather or other events of immediate concern, or it can provide wayfinding capabilities that can map a route for someone from their current location to a desired destination and even, with some systems, provide the means to transfer the route information to a mobile phone or tablet.

Cloud-based commercial digital signage systems are especially nice. This type keeps the amount of technical setup required by the customer to a minimum. Pay close attention to the quality and degree of support that comes with such a system, however. With cloud-based systems in particular, the support provided is as important as the quality and capability of the system itself, so be sure to give this close scrutiny when choosing a digital signage system.

Once the decisions have been made regarding the technical aspects of a digital signage system, it is necessary to make equally critical decisions regarding the content to be displayed. Who decides what content is to be displayed and for how long? Who will be tasked with creating and managing the content? Who will be responsible for loading the content, keeping it up-to-date, removing it when it is no longer needed, and taking care of any technical problems that may occur? It is extremely important to develop good answers for these questions in order to ensure success.

Are you convinced yet that putting digital signage in your library is possible and a good idea? If still uncertain, pay attention to digital signage wherever you encounter it. Is it attention-grabbing? Does it make the space appear more vibrant and active? Does it provide important information in a quick and easy to digest form? I am convinced that once you see proof of digital signage's affordability, its practicality, and what it can bring to your library, you will wonder why you did not get it sooner.




David Ratledge is Associate Professor and Coordinator of Technology Infrastructure at The University of Tennessee Libraries, Knoxville. He can be reached at




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