Creating Digital Signs at Butler Library

Creating Digital Signs at Butler Library

Technological advances are forcing constant changes in libraries across the nation.  It is important to note that these changes encompass more than just computer hardware and software.  At the Butler Area Public Library, located in Butler, PA, even the bulletin board has been replaced with what is commonly referred to as “digital signage.”  With digital signage, news announcements, event information, etc., can be shown throughout the library via LCD television monitors.  Fortunately, over time LCDs have become increasingly inexpensive.

From the onset, the Butler library was discouraged by cost estimates from professional signage systems such as 3M, Cisco and CDW.  Being a medium-sized library, such large expenditures are typically unattainable.  The library finally decided to design and build its own system.  As their computer technician, I was able to research, design, present and eventually install the new system.

Here’s how we did it:

My number one goal was to keep the system as simple as possible; allowing non-tech staff to easily update the content.  I concluded early on that Microsoft PowerPoint could assist in this goal.  PowerPoint is simple; all staff members have it available to them and are comfortable with it; and, best of all, the library already owns it. 

My second goal was to use resources the library already possesses to drastically cut costs.

With these two major goals in mind, I researched ways for the content to be distributed to the television monitors.  My search for methods to distribute video led me to one clear winner: The company sells small devices that transmit high-definition video and audio over a computer network in a very simple and expandable manner.  With these devices, a video source is plugged into one of the transmitters, which is connected to all the receivers via a standard computer network switch and computer network cable that is already installed. 

Selection of the televisions was the easiest part of the project. LCD televisions have become very affordable within the last few years making it easy to find great deals.  The model we chose has great features that help tremendously with daily maintenance, including auto on/off and locked buttons to prevent patrons from interfering with their function.

Over all, the setup cost is the value of the television, a JustAddPower receiver for each, and a single JustAddPower transmitter.  The Butler library incurred additional costs such as having power outlets installed due to placement of the televisions; (two of them are located near the ceiling.) 

It is my desire that our experience with this project are useful to other libraries interested in implementing this concept.  Additional detailed information is available at

Matthew E. Maine

Computer Support Technician

Butler Area Public Library

Butler, PA



This post is part of a series marking World Telecommunication and Information Society Day and their 2011 theme: "Better life in rural communities with ICTs."


Hi Matthew - thanks so much for sharing your digital sign story as part of the rural ICT Net2 Think Tank! I've shared it in the round-up at I hope that your story can serve to inspire others!

Create your PowerPoint and save it as a JPG instead of PowerPoint. It will create a file and each PwPt slide will be saved as a JPG in it. Save that to a USB thumb drive. Insert in the USB port of TV and play. (Time each slide and play as continuous loop.) Same result, less money!

We did consider that; however, the appeal of advanced transitions and animations was too great. Without them, its far from the same result. Animations REALLY grab people's attention. We also wouldn't have Public Address functionality nor would the setup be fully automated. We can program each LCD to turn on at a specific time, but we will still have to start the slideshow every morning. Because we use PowerPoint on a Windows PC, we can specify different shows to run at different times of the day. IE: Our "Library is Closing" (w.Audio) message. Thanks for your input, it's certainly a cost-saving alternative.

We did look into that idea; however, that method takes a lot of features out the project. Features such as animation and transitions, which are great for catching attention and for that "wow" factor. The abililty to show actual video is also lost. We would also lose our Public Address funcionality and the ability to display and broadcast our "Library is closing soon" message. Being controlled by a central PC, we can schedule what slide-shows to play at any given time. Automation will also be lost in the sense that the televisons can turn on automatically at a specified time; however, they lack the ability to start a picture slideshow without human intervention. It was very important for us to create a setup that is fully automated so that staff need not worry about. Certainly an interesting idea, though! Definately cost-saving!

There is a much cheaper and easier way to do this if you don't need video playback. Most LCD TVs have a USB port that will do picture slide shows off a USB drive plugged into it. I bought cheap LCD TVs from WalMart and hung them around the library. The staff turns whatever they want displayed (pictures, flyers, etc.) into *.jpg or JPEG files and adds them to the USB drive plugged into each TV. We then use the slide-show program that is built into the TV to flip through the pictures. Pitctures we no longer want to display are then deelted from the USB drives. Works great!

I also recommend using a USB extension cable between the USB drive and the TV's USB port. This will prevent the USB port on the TV from getting broke. We had this happen with our first TV when a person forced the USB drive in the wrong way and ruined the TV's USB port.

Andrew "Sherm" Sherman

IT Coordinator

Sump Memorial Library

We are a small library and I purchased a "black friday" special buy on a 40 " tv/monitor for under $200, I bought a sturdy mount for $60.00. It has a USB port and can play music and photo slide shows.  We run a copy of our jpeg file slide show from our website front page, and any other in house items that we want to add for in house use to advertise programing/new apps/upcoming books & materials. We use Publisher to create signage and convert to jpeg for our website, so this works great with the new tv monitor as well. We just copy it to a USB stick and update it once a week.  It runs a great slide show, with transitions and color background choices. We can now advertise what the weekly movie will be playing in a very timely, and "green" way. We hated wasting the colored ink to plaster up colored movie posters to advertise the weekly after school movie.

It is not in a good location to have a movie run on it, however I have been told that with a 16 gig USB, and right conversion file you can play movies without computer/DVD/external hard drive. This would require applying copy right laws, but most DVD's today allow for an online share file. It is near our circ desk, and I am thinking of using it for training videos for staff meetings. We are thrilled with this low tech solution as our newest marketing tool.

Beth Porter

Heyworth Public Library

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