Wednesday, September 1, 2010

QR Codes @ Your Library/Archives

Recently, I've been reading about QR codes and how they can be used in libraries. A basic web search will yield a number of results, so I won't bother listing them all here. However, I will highlight a few things that prompted my interest in the topic.

The fabulous Meredith Farkas wrote "Guided by Barcodes" for American Libraries. She mentions the use of QR codes for library instruction (links to websites or tutorials, surveys, contact information, and text or chat reference), equipment usage (tutorial video on using a microfilm reader), and fun (library scavenger hunt). Other library applications she describes are "read-alikes," links to electronic journals, and uses by archives and museums. This is a great short overview if you're new to the idea of QR codes.

My buddy Dan Messer tags his staff picks for reading material at his library with QR codes linking to the books' catalog records.

Laurie Bridges created a short video on how QR codes are being used in libraries and museums.

The JFK Library and Museum is using QR codes to link back to Twitter.

Of course, you can also see QR codes in the wild. Google is providing QR stickers to 100,000 "Favorite Places" in the US. Recent Twitter posts on QR codes revealed more uses for them ("there are #QRcodes in my Southern Living mag offering travel discounts") as well as hyped their newness. They "have a draw, a mystique, what's it going to be? They offer a chance for good PR, brand awareness and interaction." "Being 1 of the 1st co.'s to use #QRCodes could make a a brand look cool/drive PR in trade pubs. If it works or not may not matter."
"It's not coming. It's here."

I hear what you're saying out there. Yeah, yeah, Superstarchivist. That's all well and good if you have time and money and space for those sorts of things. But I'm a "lone arranger" in a university archives. What good is this going to do me? How does it help my patrons?

Well, let me tell you how we've used QR codes so far:
  • I recently created a display within my library depicting life on campus 50 years ago. Our campus marketing team is already using a website to advertise this year's homecoming events, so I included a QR code to that page as part of the display.
  • Our outreach librarian included one on a flyer about inter-library loan services; the code links to our ILL webpage.
  • I included one to our Special Collections page as part of a student handout on the archives.
So, yeah, that's only three examples, but the academic year has just begun! I'm thinking that next time I go to a conference, I'm going to take a QR sticker with me to put on my badge. I can create a contact link that is easy for someone to add to their smartphone. Maybe I'll even link back to this blog posting. I think they certainly have a place in displays, book recommendations, and instruction.

What about you? Are you using them in your institution yet?

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