or, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Fear and Loathing at a Public Library Reference Desk



Digital Picture Frames as Informational Signs

   July 21st, 2011

Digital picture frame at the Childrens DeskUsually I'm pretty good at math, but in this case it took me awhile to put two and two together.

Awhile ago, our Childrens Department put a digital picture frame on their desk, using it to display photos of their various programs*. I'd seen and heard of other libraries using digital picture frame like this, and for in-building informational signs (like upcoming events), but I never thought of an application for it at the Reference Desk.

Until a couple weeks ago, when I was in the Apple Store in Boston. I'm not at all an Apple fanboy, but I admit that once in awhile, they come up with a good idea.

A friend of mine was having trouble with her Mac laptop, so we took it to the genius bar to having someone help us with it. I still really like the idea of the genius bar in and of itself, but what got my attention was that, behind the genius bar were great big screens scrolling through tips and information. The messages were all about using or fixing Apple products, which were perfectly targeted at the captive audience of people waiting for the genius bar.

I didn't get any photos myself (Apple is funny about taking pictures in their store), but here are some from the interweb:

Apple Store Genius Bar
Apple Store Genius Bar
Apple Store Genius Bar

You get the idea.

When I saw that, it finally dawned on me - this would be an easy thing for libraries to do at service desks, using a simple digital picture frame. As soon as I can get approval (and funding) to purchase one, I'd like to try one with rotating tips on topics like:

  • how to renew books
  • how to book museum passes
  • using online resources and databases
  • where the bathrooms are
  • online events calendar
  • how to find summer reading books

Really, good topics are anything that might be interesting to someone waiting in line at the Reference Desk.

The "photos" will just be slides created in PowerPoint, and hopefully, having something interesting to look will give patrons waiting in line something to do (in addition to teaching them something they may not have known).

I bet other libraries have already thought of this, so if you're doing it, please comment with how it's working. When I get ours up and running, I'll post an update with how it went.

 


*They decided to use a digital picture frame rather than flickr or other online service, because they were reluctant to post photos of kids on the internet. Keeping the photos offline and in the Childrens Room was a good compromise (between online or not at all), and it might be more likely for the kids to see themselves, too.




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24 Responses to “Digital Picture Frames as Informational Signs”

  1. Emily Says:

    I’ve seen this more and more at libraries. It’s a cheap, nice-looking way to get info out at points of service. The most common ones I’ve seen are rolling slideshows of upcoming program flyers, which translate nicely into this medium. We use it here at our library system offices to promote upcoming training sessions, events, speakers, etc. to the library staff attending our programs.

  2. Amelia Says:

    I think this is a great idea. We have a flat screen TV mounted to the wall in our lobby and I put together a PowerPoint presentation of all of our programs for the month, library closings, and other branch information. I make one presentation for the month, and then I’ll do another one for the last 2 weeks of the current month and the first 2 weeks of the new month.

    I think it’s working well, every once in awhile I have to check the animations because it will get stuck on a slide, but then patrons notice that slide and come up and ask questions. The last time it was getting stuck on our slide for borrowing museum passes and a lot of them didn’t know they could do that, so it worked out in our favor.

  3. Veronica R. Says:

    I went through exactly the same thought process you did and we implemented the signs last year. I’m biased, but I think they’ve turned out very well. Certainly they’ve de-cluttered our desks. I also have a lot of fun designing slides for our book clubs which I update monthly since it lets me flex my rusty Photoshop skills. If you’re curious, I included a few slides on it in my ALA presentation here: http://slidesha.re/khcW5G

  4. Rosemary Says:

    We’ve been doing this to advertise programs using an old computer with a flat screen monitor at the circulation desk. We were able to tuck the computer behind so there’s just the monitor on the desk and it’s worked out really well. We’ve had a good response from patrons, although they don’t always get all the program details, and there is occasional disappointment when a program isn’t for the age group they want. We’ve talked about adding informational slides, but haven’t really done that yet. I’ve heard that we’ll be upgrading to flat screen TVs sometime soon, so that will be exciting!

  5. Catherine Says:

    I just recently saw this in use at a local coffeeshop, and my first thought was that it was a terrific low-budget version of those huge flatscreen digital displays that are popping up everywhere.

  6. Carolyn Says:

    We have used a digital frame for a couple of years at our Circ Desk. Usually it showcases upcoming movies and programs. People seem to be riveted by it.

  7. Michelle Says:

    We have digital photo frames promoting programs at all our libraries and they certainly catch people’s eyes. Cheap, quick and easy marketing.

  8. Marleah Says:

    This is something we started doing about 4 months ago or so. Some people are disappointed if we don’t have a copy of a schedule that they can take home and put on their fridge. In those cases, we will print off 1-2 copies of the flyer for folks. (We have several regular folks who are “old school”.) But for the most part, everyone has been pleased with it.

  9. Ron Says:

    Catalog computers work great for this as well. Our screen savers come on after about 3 minutes of inactivity and these act as the informational slideshow. To make it easier I shared a Dropbox folder with the computers for the screen saver to draw the images from. This way, when we need to change the information we simply create a new image/slide and put it in the Dropbox. The next time the screen saver starts it displays the new information.

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