Tuesday, June 7, 2011

QR Codes: Quick, Easy, Cheap

A quick and easy use for QR codes at the library: take your online serials to the print serials. Here’s how.

1. You’ve got a master list of all print serials you subscribe to, right? If not, make one.
2. For each print serial, use your link resolver (my place of work doesn’t have one of these, which is a problem. I’m working on it) and/or database and/or OPAC (yeah, I just used that term, I'm old) that holds the online version, and get a stable URL for each title.
3. Use these URLs to create QR codes, for free, at QRStuff.com. Feel free to pretty them up.
4. Get yourself a smartphone, even if you’re borrowing one from another staff member. Install the free app ATT Scanner on an iPhone, or the QR Droid app, also free, on an Android phone.
5. Quality control: make sure even first generation smartphones, like my 3G iPhone, for example, can read the QR codes. Expand or contract the size of the codes as needed.
6. Print out the QR codes, and make sure to protect the paper, which might include laminating (expensive) or well-deployed packing tape (cheaper). Perform more quality control.
7. Place the corresponding QR code next to where each print serial is shelved. Post instructions in clearly visible locations. Don’t forget the details; at some libraries patrons may have to join a wireless network to access online serials.
8. Shamelessly promote it. Library blog posts, table toppers, posters... you get the idea.

Why do this?

1. Having the ability to search past issues of a title next to the more current paper issues can help patrons conduct research.
2. QR codes are hip, modern, and interactive. Making your library a hipper, more modern, more interactive place to be will pay off for you.
3. Many of the patrons at MPOW (my place of work) don’t have internet access at home, except for smartphones. It’s a tool that they’re comfortable with. We as librarians should be comfortable with it as well, and as we see smartphone use on the rise, I hope that vendors begin to design easy to use mobile sites alongside more traditional interfaces. In the meantime, let's bring the library to our patrons, via QR codes and mobile computing.


  1. Someone came in last night, scanned the QR code with her smartphone and emailed it to her iPad and then went and sat in the reading room with her articles. It was pretty awesome. Thought you'd like to know!

  2. Wow. That literally makes my day.