Touch Tables for Special Collections Libraries: Curators Creating User Experiences

Anna Dysert, Sharon Rankin, Darren N. Wagner


This article describes the implementation of touch table technology for McGill University Library’s special collections. The touch table was used by the Osler Library of the History of Medicine and the Marvin Duchow Music Library to create audiovisual exhibits to accompany traditional exhibition display cases. Each exhibition curator used a different software platform to create his or her touch table experience. This article explores the introduction of what is now a common technology in museums into the library setting and the attendant challenges, such as the need to create attractive and user-friendly experiences with limited resources and programmer time available. In particular, the article explores the library’s choices of software and hardware, providing lessons learned as well as some preliminary recommendations of best practices. It also analyzes the ways in which the touch table has proven to be an excellent addition to the library’s exhibition spaces, including its ability to unite disparate resources from multiple branch libraries, to act as a new point of librarian-faculty collaboration, and to display nontraditional items from library collections, such as recorded musical performances and archival video footage.

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