Seeing Red

If you walk in the main entrance of the E.H. Little Library or up to the second floor you may see even more “red” than previously, as there are some large bright red kiosks now positioned in both locations.   Yes, those are kiosks, not robots or unusual book drops, as I’ve overheard students speculate.    The kiosks house touch screen monitors and computers designed to allow interested visitors to gain access to some information about Davidson.

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The library and archives have long maintained current and historical information about various aspects of the Davidson experience.  This information includes web-based articles about Davidson’s presidents and campus buildings, physical plaques with names of student editors and award winners, faculty teaching award winners and information that wasn’t readily available at all to the public, like biographies of Davidson’s Rhodes Scholars.     A challenge has been the accessibility of the information to the public.   Many of the plaques are beautiful but tucked away in corners.  In the case of some of the electronic information visitors to our campus, including alumni rarely have easy access to the network.

As we were thinking about new ways to present this information, we were inspired by how prevalent touch screens have become in the world of retail, building directories etc. Our own Davidson Athletics Fund uses a touchscreen in their “Hall of Fame”.     Since we like to experiment with access information using different technologies, we approached ITS and discovered that the current Four Winds software package the campus uses for digital signs, like those already in the library and the union, can support interactive touch screens as well.    Working in concert with the vendor and ITS, we created what you currently see in the library.  Right now you can view biographies of Davidson’s Presidents and Rhodes Scholars, photos and histories of current and historical campus buildings, lists of Valedictorians, Salutatorians, Quips and Cranks and Davidsonian editors, a listing of various faculty teaching award winners and a link to the library’s online digital bookplates.  You can even get a weather forecast!

The kiosks have only been in place a few weeks but we are already learning.   The technology seems to be great for relatively static information such as award lists or biographies, and users seem to like it, especially individuals who don’t have easy access to the Internet.    On the other hand, for truly interactive screens going out on the Internet, the technology isn’t so good.  Our digital bookplate application looks quite nice on the Internet but looks terrible on the kiosk as the screen won’t resize or scroll properly.   We are already working on alternatives.   Next time you are in the library have a look, let us know what you think of this technology for information delivery, and please feel free to offer suggestions for other uses.

About Craig Milberg

Assistant Director for Discovery Systems [Read More...]