November 16, 2017

Signs of the Times | Product Spotlight

Digital signage has become a familiar sight in retail stores, restaurants, hotels, and other businesses. With large flat-panel televisions now relatively inexpensive, many libraries have jumped on board with this trend as well, using digital signs to display a rotating series of regularly updated images, such as announcements, book covers, or information about upcoming events.

Yet library design consultant and LJ User Experience columnist Aaron Schmidt notes that a poorly thought-out digital sign can be less effective in its intended role than a creative, hand-drawn whiteboard notice, for example.

“My concern is that oftentimes libraries use these for advertising purposes,” Schmidt says. “They’re trying to let people know about their offerings, and that’s great, but the combination of advertising content, plus banner-blindness/screen-blindness, can make these things not as effective as people hope they would be.”

Some level of interactivity, live content, or topical content helps engage patrons. Schmidt pointed to Connecticut’s Darien Library, which uses digital signs to display tweets mentioning the library, as well as currently popular items that patrons might be interested in checking out, and the Story Cast platform developed by the Doklab at the Delft Public Library in the Netherlands in 2014. This shared platform showcases library events but also rotates in social media comments and cloud-hosted content developed by partner libraries, such as themed presentations about authors.

Other examples include North Carolina State University Libraries harvesting patron-posted, hashtagged Instagram images of the James B. Hunt Jr. Library to display on digital screens within the building after it opened in 2013.

Schmidt notes that digital signs “might help the library seem modern and cool” but argues that the technology alone won’t be beneficial unless it is used well. “The library [needs to be] restrained and focus on doing well with a few well-placed digital signs as part of an overall strategy vs. a willy-nilly shotgun approach.”

This spotlight focuses on a few vendors that might help simplify the interactivity and engagement made possible by digital signs.

Product: Anode Digital End Caps, Community/History Interactives
Company: Anode

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Anode is a full-service creative studio offering marketing, branding, graphic design, and event support for its clients. The company has also found a niche designing interactive experiences for cultural institutions including museums and libraries.

Anode’s digital end caps showcase reading lists of physical books and digital content. The networked, 32″ touch screens interface with a library’s integrated library system (ILS). When patrons tap on a title, the screens will display information including a general overview of a book, reviews of that book, and catalog information including location and availability by branch. Although Anode has considered additional functionality, such as enabling patrons to place holds on featured titles via the screens, Anode’s director of sales and marketing Jeff Peden explains that the primary goal of the design is to highlight a specific, librarian-curated selection of titles.

“It doesn’t display all of your available ebooks; it doesn’t allow [patrons] to search your entire catalog,” he says. “It’s designed for libraries to merchandise their books in a new way.”

Separately, Anode develops interactive displays that enable patrons to explore a library’s digital archives. At the Nashville Public Library, for example, Anode designed a large touch screen display that features a contemporary map of the city. When viewers touch areas of the map, they access the library’s collection of historical photos and documents relevant to those locations.

Product: TouchIT Digital Signage
Company: TouchIT Technologies

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As the company’s name implies, TouchIT is best known for interactive touch screen displays. These can connect wirelessly with tablets, cell phones, PCs, and Macs and include a variety of features designed for classrooms or other collaborative scenarios, such as built-in polling tools, screen mirroring, wireless presenting, and “multitouch” capabilities, allowing multiple students to interact with the display simultaneously.

The company also offers digital signage systems targeted at educational institutions, which “combine interactive LED touch displays with digital signage software to create inter­active ‘info-signage,’ ” according to TouchIT CEO Andi Brabin.

The software features a simple drag-and-drop interface for uploading content, which can include text, pictures, moving images, video, and more. With unlimited screen zones, users can segment screens however they wish to display a variety of content in a single view. A built-in web server enables remote updating via a browser.

The software does not require touch screens, and will work with any screen connected to a network. However, touch screens enable functions such as interactive wayfinders/maps, which could be useful in larger institutions.

TouchIT provides online training for customers. The company does not sell directly to libraries; its products are available through Demco.

Product: All in One Digital Signage LED Displays
Company: ProLine Digital

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ProLine Digital has offered digital signs to schools and libraries for several years, along with a range of other products including Blu-ray, DVD, and CD storage, filing, and disc care solutions. Available in 42″ and 32″ models, its new All in One Digital Signage LED Displays “focus on plug and play [design] that allows any user to create content in just about any program that they already are familiar with such as Word, PowerPoint, Adobe [PDF, Photoshop, Flash], and more to get up and delivering their message in minutes,” says ProLine Digital president Tony Marco.

Content can be delivered to individual all-in-one screens via a Wi-Fi network or external SD card; an Android application can be used to send alerts or event changes to the signs via tablet or smartphone.

The company’s new HDMI4K8 digital media players distribute content to up to eight different screens at once, Marco says.

Separately, the company offers its HD and mini HD media players. These small, smartphone-sized devices connect to any television via AV or HDMI cable and support playback of MP3, AVI, Flac, VOB, images, and other digital files stored on any USB drive, SD card, or external HDD drive.

Product: Xhibit
Company: Mvix

ljx160602webEnisMvix

Mvix is one of the world’s leading suppliers of digital signage solutions, with major clients including Hilton, Pepsi, Saks Fifth Avenue, Texas A&M University, and hundreds of retailers, restaurants, corporate offices, banks, schools, hospitals, and other institutions. Services range from phone- and web-based support to custom designs, implementation assistance, and on-site installation.

The company’s networkable, wireless Xhibit Mykro, Xhibit Lite, and Xhibit 4K systems feature internal storage from 32 to 120 GB, multizone screen layouts, remote device reboot and monitoring, role-based multiuser management, and a cloud-based content management system (CMS) hosted by Mvix. The CMS includes a library of more than 1,000 templates, and a drag-and-drop interface that enables users to display content such as images (including Mvix-hosted stock photos), videos, and PDFs and to schedule playlists to run during specific times of the day.

The Xhibit 4K system also includes a variety of integrated widgets for showcasing content from YouTube, Twitter, Vimeo, Picasa, RSS feeds, weather reports, and more. Premium Xhibit Live systems include all of these features as well as live television and live closed-circuit event broadcasts.

The proprietary, browser-based CMS is included with the purchase of the devices, and Mvix does not currently charge subscription or licensing fees for use of the system.

This article was published in Library Journal's June 15, 2016 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.

Matt Enis About Matt Enis

Matt Enis (menis@mediasourceinc.com; @matthewenis on Twitter) is Senior Editor, Technology for Library Journal.

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Comments

  1. I haven’t seen digital signage in my local library as of yet. But, I do think if used properly and making sure that it has a purpose – they could be a great addition. Thanks for sharing!