Academic journal article Information Technology and Libraries

It Is Our Flagship: Surveying the Landscape of Digital Interactive Displays in Learning Environments

Academic journal article Information Technology and Libraries

It Is Our Flagship: Surveying the Landscape of Digital Interactive Displays in Learning Environments

Article excerpt


This paper presents the findings of an environmental scan conducted as part of a Digital Exhibits Intern Librarian Project at the Edmonton Public Library in 2016. As part of the Library's 2016-2018 Business Plan objective to define the vision for a digital exhibits service, this research project aimed to understand the current landscape of digital displays in learning institutions globally. The resulting study consisted of 39 structured interviews with libraries, museums, galleries, schools, and creative design studios. The environmental scan explored the technical infrastructure of digital displays, their user groups, various uses for the technologies within organizational contexts, the content sources, scheduling models, and resourcing needs for this emergent service. Additionally, broader themes surrounding challenges and successes were also included in the study. Despite the variety of approaches taken among learning institutions in supporting digital displays, the majority of organizations have expressed a high degree of satisfaction with these technologies.


In 2020, the Stanley A. Milner Library, the central branch of the Edmonton (Alberta] Public Library (EPL] will reopen after extensive renovations to both the interior and exterior of the building. As part of the interior renovations, EPL will have installed a large digital interactive display wall modeled after The Cube at Queensland University of Technology (QUT] in Brisbane, Australia. To prepare for the launch of this new technology service, EPL hired a digital exhibits intern librarian in 2016, whose role consisted of conducting research to inform the library in defining the vision for a digital display wall serving as a shared community platform for all manner of digitally accessible and interactive exhibits. As a result, the author carried out an environmental scan and a literature review related to digital display, as well as their consequent service contexts. For the purposes of this paper, "digital displays" refers to the technology and hardware used to showcase information, whereas "digital exhibits" refers to content and software used on those displays. Wherever the service of running, managing, or using this technology is discussed, it is framed as "digital display service" and concerns both technical and organizational aspects of using this technology in a learning institution.


The data were collected between May 30 and August 20, 2016. A series of structured interviews were conducted by Skype, phone, and email. The study population was driven by searching Google and Google News for keywords such as "digital interactive AND library," "interactive display," "public display," or "visualization wall" to identify organizations that have installed digital displays. A list of the study population was expanded by reviewing websites of creative studios specializing in interactive experiences and through a snowball effect once the interviews had begun. A small number of vendors, consisting primarily of creative agencies specializing in digital interactive services, were also included in the study population. Participants were then recruited by email. The goal of this project was to gain a broad understanding of the emergent technology, content, and service model landscape related to digital displays. As a result, structured interviews were deemed to be the most appropriate method of data collection because of their capacity to generate a large amount of qualitative and quantitative data. In total, 39 interviews were conducted.

A list of interview questions prepared for the interviews is included in appendix A. Additionally, a complete list of the study population can also be found in Appendix B. Predominantly, organizations from Canada, the United States, Australia, and New Zealand are represented in this study.



* Public displays, a term used in the literature to refer to a particular type of digital display, can refer to "small or large sized screens that are placed indoor . …

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