[This post is based on a talk I attended at Oxford Brookes University as part of my Graduate Training and a talk I attended at the Radcliffe Science Library, Oxford -‘New Technology at the RSL’ – as well as my own experience. See the introductory post here.]
Okay, what is a QR Code?
This small square of code contains within it the URL for my main blog page. If you have a smart phone or tablet, you can scan the code using a QR Reader (a quick search in your phone’s app store will bring up a wide selection!) and the URL will open on your device automatically. Pretty handy!
Even better, QR codes can also be used to encode:
- Address details
- Telephone numbers
- Calendar events
They are free to make and use and you can even change their colour to match your branding or design! You can also track the number of users who accessed content via your QR Code to monitor how successful they have been.
So, how are they being used in libraries?
Below is a list of uses gathered from both of the talks I attended at Oxford Brookes University and the RSL and also some from my own experience:
- Providing quick links to enable readers to navigate library collections on mobile devices
- Locating and saving specific and significant information quickly e.g. QR codes can be included on handouts or posters to provide subject librarian contact information, library guides, maps based on contact information, maps of the library, links to YouTube video guides, links to audio guides of the library for download
- Q points [RSL] – scanning codes to get information about the section of the library that the reader is currently in
- Advertising event details or new services e.g. At Sunderland University QR codes were placed beside books on shelves to advertise and link to the e-book version
- Advertising and promoting Facebook, Twitter and other on-line services
- Encoded onto the library catalogue to provide the shelf mark on a mobile device [Oxford Brookes and ORA(Oxford Research Archive)] so that students don’t need to write it down or memorise it!
QR Codes are therefore a great way to market your library’s services! However, the RSL came across a couple of issues when trialling QR Codes in the library that are useful to be aware of:
- Lighting and Placement: because QR codes need to be scanned, they need to be readable by the scanning device. This also means that you can’t reduce the size of your code too much or the code may become unreadable.
- Reader Awareness and Knowledge: not everyone knows about QR Codes or how to use them so signage or guidance needs to be in place to ensure it works effectively
- Wifi: if the QR Code links to a website or on-line content, then the reader will need access to wifi or 3G connection on their device in order to view it.
- Information limit: the amount of information you can put into a QR Code is limited, so you need to be succinct in getting your message across.
Finally, as is usually the case with new technology, there is always something bigger and better around the corner! Oxford Brookes University suggested that the next big thing to look out for is: Near Field Communications.
The possible uses for NFC suggested by Oxford Brookes included:
- A library card which is also able to provide access to the library (like a keyfob) and pay library fines
- If built into phones, could replace QR Codes with readers simply holding their phone near to the poster/handout/map and having the information transferred.