Posts Tagged RSL

QR Codes

[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?

Here is an example:

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:

  • Text
  • images
  • 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.


What’s Next?

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.

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Yay for the New Shiny Things!

[This post is based on 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. ]

I’d best start this post with a confession: I love gadgets.  If it’s new and shiny and does clever things at the swish of a finger – I’m sold!  In fact the (sometimes slow) building friendship between libraries and new technology is one of the reasons I love this field of work.

However, when I first got into librarianship as a volunteer for Sunderland University, the last thing I expected to see was a set of iPad2s!  Turns out that a number of libraries are now experimenting with the latest tablets and finding effective uses for them in the everyday running of the library…


iPads are a particularly useful resource for roving staff who can use the technology to support readers instantly with queries about library services.  The iPad’s camera feature can be used to record a virtual library guide and design guides to learning spaces (or just take photographs and quickly upload them to the library’s social media sites!).   The Radcliffe Science Library used them in a range of projects including de-duplicating old material and found they increased efficiency.  At Oxford Brookes University Library they’re also used in staff meetings and in giving demonstrations.

iPads can also be loaned out to readers as a powerful device which enables access to  library resources on the move, the option to read e-book and e-journal PDFs on the go or even to design and give presentations by connecting the device to computers and projection screens!  iPad is also great for apps – the Radcliffe Science Library, for example, found a number of useful science related apps for readers to explore!


‘Smartbooks’ for the iPad could be the next thing to watch out for as textbooks become purposefully designed for tablet devices.  Apple, for example, recently updated their iBooks app to allow for ‘interactive JavaScript powered widgets… [meaning] much richer iBook publications.’ – San Francisco Chronicle

Learn more: Apple Eyes Interactive Textbook Revolution – The Independent

Although a couple of years old, this paper on the ‘New Generation e-Book’ by Koychev, Nikolov and Dicheva gives an interesting insight into the possible future of ‘Smartbooks’, which are intended to not only be multimedia, personalised and accessible on the go but like much of web 2.0, are also designed for interaction!  The founders of ‘Inkling’ have already taken some of these ideas on-board, maximising the potential of the iPad in publishing.

RSL – Pros and Cons of iPad Use

This all sounds promising and during their trial period integrating the iPad into the library, the Radcliffe Science Library found a number of positive results. iPad is popular with readers and having them available in the library allows readers who wouldn’t normally have access to such technology, experience and benefit from it first-hand.  It provides a great way to access library resources on the move and is a very flexible and powerful tool.

There were however, also some issues with the practical aspects of having an iPad available for reader use, iPads after all weren’t designed specifically for use in the library.  Staff aren’t always comfortable managing new technology and need training to use the technology confidently, readers also require guidance when using the technology so library guides and help materials had to be created.  New procedures had to be put in place not only to check the device was charged and updated regularly but also to monitor and remove any reader added materials in order to ensure data protection and confidentiality didn’t become major issues.  Readers also had to sign a loan promise to pay for a replacement if the technology is damaged – considering the cost of an iPad this might put off many readers who couldn’t afford taking the risk.

There is also the fact that in the not too distant future the iPad may well be old technology and the expense of constantly updating to the next gadget – not only money, but time to re-train staff, remake guides etc – is also an issue.

However, in my opinion, the benefits out way the issues in this case.  New technology such as the iPad provides a modern image for the library which boosts reader confidence in our ability to give them the best service possible, it provides readers with another way to access information and gives the library new ideas for service delivery.  At the very least, if you don’t give it a try, you might miss out on something really useful and keeping up to date ensures you’re developing professionally in a positive direction.

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