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Digital signage in the libraries

The Stanford Libraries has utilized digital signage for many years. We have always looked to move from the monotonous static systems of the past to a communicative system that was more dynamic and interactive. There are many digital signage solutions available on the market – both open source and commercial – that have the features and functionality for building a robust digital signage system, but none that offers the features and personal touch like Oalla.

Michael Nack from Stanford Engineering library introduced me to Michael Fischer, a Stanford Ph.D student in the Computer Science department. Michael has developed a digital signage system that goes beyond traditional systems. Screen shot of the digital display in Green LibraryWhen I was invited to see a demo of the system that was running at the Engineering Library, I was expecting to see a system that displayed rotating screens of a static content PowerPoint presentation. I was expecting a back-end design interface that allowed end-users to quickly design and layout content. I was expecting a PC-based system that was powered by an open source solution. Lastly, I was expecting a non-interactive system, which describes most traditional digital signage systems.

However, the digital system that Michael had developed went beyond the static, traditional, non-interactive system. The small footprint of this non PC-based, solid-state system is exactly what I was looking for in a digital signage system for Green Library. The ability to manage the system in the cloud allows us to quickly update content from anywhere. The content management interface is very easy to use and is also intuitive. The system utilizes SMS (short message service, or texting) to engage viewers and adds a social aspect to this interactive system. Finally, the cost of entry to implement this system is very feasible.

Digital Display sign in Green Library - Twitter feedMichael and his team worked closely with us to create a design that worked for Green Library (as they did for our colleagues in the Engineering library). In Green, we are running three different screens, with content ranging from library news, events, and services to a Twitter feed to valuable tidbits of information pertaining to our vast collections. The system also has the ability to display video content, which we will take advantage of in the near future.

The system has a number of applications that will allow patrons to interact with it. With a simple text message, patrons can interact with the system to connect with other students, to give their opinion about different issues, or to participate in any of the many games available.

We are looking forward to implementing more system features in the near future, such as content sharing and touchscreen integration. Digital Sign in Green Library - Did You Know appThe ability to share content between departments through this medium will allow departments to more effectively disseminate information and have a greater potential of reaching Stanford community members across this campus. Once we add touch capability to the system, users will then be able to take greater control of the content they want pushed to them at that moment. We plan to continue working with Michael on this project and are looking forward to connecting with other departments around campus that are also utilizing this system. You can find digital signage screens running the Oalla system in Residential Dining, Arrillaga Sports and Recreation, campus eateries, and several academic departments.

If you would like more information about the system, please contact Michael Fischer (

About Emerging Technologies Team (ETT)
The ETT is composed of SUL staff from various departments in the organization, and we are on a mission! Our goal is to identify, test, and assess new and emerging technologies within the academic library environment and disseminate that information to our colleagues.

Our uniquely qualified team is made up of professional technology and library staff who regularly work with new and emerging technologies. We bring this technical and professional knowledge and experience, as well as research and consultation with library staff on new and emerging technologies, and assist them with developing test environments, providing feedback and assessment on those environments, and reporting those assessments to the SUL staff at large.

The ETT meets regularly to discuss the feasibility of and develop implementation strategies for identified new and emerging technologies. We obtain information about technology through various tech websites, periodicals, and by word-of-mouth.

We would like to hear from you! If you have any suggestions about any new or emerging technology (hardware or software) that might work in SUL, write to us at sultechteam@lists.stanford. edu.