Library Digital Signs by Conan the Librarian

Posted by on Nov 4, 2011 in Advertising

There was a stupid parody show performed by the eccentric Weird Al Yankovic on his movie UHF. It’s a spoof of barbarian turn librarian. After being asked where a particular book of interest is, Conan lifts the man by the tuft of his shirt and asks in a gruff voice, “don’t you know the Dewey Decimal system?” I just thought I would bring in Conan for a little bit of comedic relief. I talk so much on this blog about digital signage that it’s sometimes difficult to see my life beyond it. But, don’t worry, I’m not going to disappoint. This post is more assuredly going to go into some specific benefits and downfalls of out-of-home at the library. But before we go into that, you should watch the video.

Signage at the library is a bit different than signage for a digital menu board or outdoor venue. It involves a entirely different crowd and therefore requires a unique implementation strategy. Like Ecclesiastes or the Byrds, “to everything there is a season.” What is appropriate for a sporting arena is certainly not appropriate at a funeral home. Keeping this in mind, let’s discuss content, including audio, of place-based media in libraries.


In a library installation, particular attention must be paid to the digital signage sound and audio. The reasoning behind this, while it may seem a bit obvious, needs further investigation and explanation. Standard library etiquette requires whispering or using what elementary school teachers like to call 12″ voices. This is one of the most important rules of using any library, whether public, private or university. There are generally people in the library who’re studying and trying to concentrate–loud voices are a huge distraction. Another distraction is not silencing cell phones while spending time in the library. A digital sign with associated audio can be just as aggravating.

Digital signs should not be an exception to the general unspoken sound etiquette of a library. The display should have the same respect for readers and studiers as another patron would. If a digital sign has any sound at all (a case that should be highly irregular), it should only be in the event of an emergency or outside the main study areas and rooms so as not to distract those who wish to actually get work accomplished.

Video and Graphics

The videos and graphics on the display should be almost as conservative as the audio. Anything more than a glorified PowerPoint presentation or more than a simple video will most certainly be overkill in the library environment. Librarian visitors generally are looking for something that is not distracting. In library entrances, far away from study areas, standard content rules can generally be applied, but deep within the recesses of the study chambers, great care must be made to ensure the graphics are not distracting from the real work involved within library walls. Like any other time, it really just depends on the location and the audience at the particular location.


Libraries are known for their public and community events which could include weekly children read-aloud sessions, book clubs, and even plays. Announcing these events to library visitors is often done with static signs. Dynamic messages, replacing the printed version, can help in quick information exchange between an audience who generally comes to this place to get away from the distractions of promotions and announcements.

Touch screens with the libraries catalog in the system can also help patrons find what they are looking for quickly, using a guided system. This is a bit more intense, but proves very useful in a large public library where finding ones way can be quite difficult. Touch would certainly make Mr. Melvil Dewey would be proud at such an implementation.

I have spent a great deal of time in libraries, both during my undergrad and graduate work. It can be quite taxing when you become what could be referenced as a “regular”—trying to soak up as much information as possible. In nearly every major library I have regularly studied in, there has been digital signage. We have also helped plan and install digital signage in both university and local public libraries. It certainly can add to the experience of those who frequent the library to fill their heads with knowledge. Digital signage simply offers another method for getting the information into the minds of the library audience–which sometimes is not the liveliest bunch unless of course the library is lead by Conan.

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