April 23, 2018

Whizz! Bang! Pow! Making an Impact with Digital Signage | The Digital Shift 2015

TDS_signageIf you were put in charge of the digital signage at your library, would you know where to start? Laurel Eby, web services librarian at San José State University’s (SJSU) King Library, was tasked with implementing three digital signs. “In the beginning I had no idea what I was doing,” Eby said in her “Whizz! Bang! Pow! Making an Impact with Digital Signage” presentation for Library Journal and School Library Journal’s online conference The Digital Shift: Libraries Connecting Communities, held October 14. “What should I put on the signs? How big were they, anyway? And how long could I reasonably expect students to stand there staring at them, reading content on them?”

There are various steps in preparing, creating, implementing, and then assessing the user experience of this type of signage. Through trial by fire, Laurel was able to identify the key elements in preparing signage that she hopes will help others. She walked attendees through the basics of digital signage size and content.


Digital screens come in different aspect ratios, Eby explained, most of which fall under 16:9 (wide screen TVs) and 4:3 (old TVs and monitors). The aspect ratio is not an actual size, but rather the ratio of the screen’s width to height. In mathematical terms, when 1920×1080 (a common screen resolution) is simplified, you get the ratio of 16:9. Knowing the aspect ratio and resolution of a screen can avoid black bars and cropped, tiny, or blurry images. Text can be informational but too much of it can make a sign cluttered. Using a good image should pique the viewer’s interest to read pertinent information. Include as little text as possible; an eye-catching image; and a brief description of the event, time, and location. Generally, six to 12 slides are enough to have on rotation. To figure out how long to display each slide, read it at a leisurely pace. Anything too short or long can cause disinterest.

Aside from library related news and events, community events can be a good source of content. For instance, SJSU showcases slides from other groups and events on campus. If there is nothing new or exciting happening, an interesting photo with a library-related quote is a way to generate content.

For images to use, Eby said, she looks on Flickr Creative Commons or other image banks to avoid something not covered under fair use. The slides are created in PowerPoint, exported as a Windows Media Download (WMD) files, uploaded to the campus CMS, and then set to display on the screen.


Eby still needs to do some tinkering to determine the ideal number of slides and rotation, she noted, which has prompted her to think about conducting a survey regarding the signs. User research and usability testing beforehand can also provide insight that saves time and work, she said, as well as serve the needs of the target audience.

TDS participant Danielle Jacobs (@DanielleJ) suggested:

While Eby hasn’t created a digital signage guide, she intends to put together some best practices, especially for groups sending in content. That said, Emily Lunceford (@eLuncenford7) brought up a valid point on Twitter:

This would be an ideal opportunity to create a style guide in addition to best practices, Eby said. Style guides enforce standards for design and writing, and can even include customizable templates. When done well they provide consistency, improve communication, and support content.

To learn more about library digital signage, including thoughts on incorporating sound and video, access Eby’s presentation and slides in the conference archives.

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  1. I can vouch for this. We’ve seen some great things happen with digital signage.

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