Interactive Displays in the Library

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One of my interactive displays @ CLP’s JCEC

It’s been a while since I wrote about my work in libraries. I honestly haven’t had too many fun things to mention, just business as usual for the most part. But recently, a colleague sent me this blog post from the Pennsylvania Library Association’s College & Research Division about using interactive displays in your library. I’ve actually been doing these kinds of displays for a long time, so I thought maybe I would talk about them and how I’ve been expanding them into the digital humanities realm.

Interactive displays and polls are a concept borrowed from museums as a way to engage patrons. If used strategically, you can also gather anonymous data about your users that can then be used to inform your services and programs. When I was at the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh’s Job and Career Education Center a few years back, I started putting together what were basically interactive graphs. They were basically just large sheets of paper with a graph and it’s axes written on it and patrons would follow the directions to insert their own data point on the graph. We made graphs that asked why people moved to or away from Pittsburgh (the color of the sticker you picked to put on the graph would indicate the reason), what industry folks worked in, how confident they were in their job search, stuff like that. The information we gathered was important to how we ran the department.

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One of my interactive displays @ CLP’s JCEC

At my academic library job, I still use interactive polls and displays. I asked students where they like to volunteer and then list the responses in a blog post for everyone to reference. I asked what their favorite movies and books were and made a book display with their responses for National Reading Month.

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Interactive display on mental health we did at Chatham University

I also busted out the old interactive graph idea last May to bring attention to mental health. The patrons would pick a sticker color based on how they were feeling and then placed it on the day of the week we were in. Patrons could participate as many times a day/week they wanted. I then wrote a blog analyzing the responses and discussing mental health, as well as pointing folks to resources to get help or learn more. You can read that post on my library’s blog here.

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I have since expanded this interactive display idea to the digital humanities arena with a project called Whose Land Are You On? My boss and I wanted to do an interactive project during November to honor Native Americans and create awareness to the systemic issues of colonization. We decided to do an interactive mapping display where folks could use Native Land to look up their home towns and see which tribes exist/ed there and then mark that information on a map. Through this crowd sourcing we would create a map of the Chatham University community, where we were from, and whose land it really was. This idea started off as a physical interactive display in the library, like our other interactive displays, but we were struggling with the size of the map. It would have to be quite large to fit all that info on it, and we a) couldn’t find one that big and b) had nowhere to actually display it that would facilitated participation. We decided to go digital.

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Image used to advertise the project on our website

Using Googles’ My Map tool we created a map that folks could add their own personalized pin to. They could then take the information they learned from Native Land and add it to their pin on the map. We got a few participants this last November and plan to continue building the map for the foreseeable future. It’s a really fun project! You can read more about it and view our map here.

I love interactive displays, both digital and physical. They spark patrons’ interest, give you a fun way to engage with your users, and allow you to collect some important data in the meantime. We plan on using this model to casually gather data concerning our website redesign project and to also poll users about their general feelings about the library (services, resources, and physical space) in the near future.

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