YA Clicks June 2011

QR Codes

Rebecca Purdy and the Web Surfers from the Central Rappahannock Regional Library

June 2011

You may not know what they are called or what they do, but you’ve certainly seen QR (Quick Response) codes.  They look like some computer created Rorschach test, but really they are a quick and easy way to provide information.  In the business world, that can be a website, a coupon, or a video.  All the user needs is a smartphone with a camera, Internet, and a free application to make it all work.  If any of your patrons have smartphones, it’s time to explore library world uses of QR codes.

If you want to know more about how to create and read them, Linda Braun wrote a great article in August 2010’s Tag Team Tech column.  Our England Run Branch librarian, Craig Graziano also has some advice for first time code creators.  His first one, “was large (about 5×5 inches).”  He noticed, “that in order to scan it, people had to stand about four feet away from it, and then it would look blurry. Smaller is much better, you can scan it closely and it will be crystal clear.”

Finding teens in our library system who had smartphones and knew how to use QR codes was challenging.  Kira knew how they worked and could appreciate the convenience they offered, but had never actually used one.  Will we let that stop us from giving them a try?  No way.  I’ve been to the movies and the mall and I know there are teens out there with smartphones.  So we’ll try them in the branches, but knowing that, we will definitely include them on any publicity that leaves the building.  Who knows, maybe new library users will be born.

Braun includes some ways libraries are using QR codes in her column above.  Here are some additional possibilities.  You’ll note many aren’t teen specific.  Finding those was another challenge, it seems like libraries overall are just experimenting, but here’s your chance to lead the way!

As always there’s a chance here to educate as well.  Consider creating a brief guide to QR Codes like the one written by The University of Lethbridge (Canada) Library.  They use codes to immediately book group work rooms and have one for every entry in their library catalog!  Patrons no longer have to write down any information on the titles they need.  Instead, one snapshot provides the location, call number, author and title.

Kristi Sadowski from the Booth & Dimock Memorial Library (CT) shared that they use them on “teen program flyers, to take them to our events page, and on a separate flyer advertising downloadable e-books.”

Contra Costa County Library (CA) has an entire page devoted to their “Snap & Go” services, and they have many!  My favorite use is offered to riders on county buses.  Library QR codes are posted on the bus and provide immediate access to downloadable audio books!  Popular books are tagged, leading patrons to similar titles and another code leads to their Text-a-Librarian service.  A 2010 SLJTeen e-newsletter article written by CCCL staffer Michele Hampshire details a QR code scavenger hunt they created for Teen Read Week.

Port Townsend Public Library (WA) doesn’t just put a library author visit online.  The title they discussed has a code inside linking readers to the video.  The promotional poster for their Community Read instantly links to the event.  The bottom of their site has the usual social networking icons, but includes a small, colorful QR code.  Click on it and see a brief introduction to this new technology.

Here are some other QR code ideas for libraries:

Houston Public Library hosted a special Black History Month playlist from one of their databases created byAlexander Street.

Dallas (OR) High School Library posts QR codes to their bulletin board linking to book trailers.

The Law Library of the Center for Computer Assisted Legal Instruction offers 2-3 minute audio tours of their various collections.

West Bloomfield Township (MI) Public Library uses them so patrons can sign up for their online newsletter.

Kudos for Library Teen Sites

Teen & Young Adult Zone

Booth & Dimock Memorial Library (CT)

Kristi Sadowski  contacted me about her library’s QR codes, but their website also captured my attention!  The entire page fit nicely on my computer screen, no scrolling required.  On the left-hand side, there are various images which are menu links.  Most are easily deciphered.  If you’re not sure though, mouse over them and text will appear.  The usual suspects are all present (programs, new books, booklists, etc.), but click on them and you’ll see some distinctive things.  The image transition from one click to another is a blackout screen, so reminiscent of an old television you can almost hear the static. The program links look like posters, but cooler; the one for Gaming Club has a gaming console with blinking lights.  It was their “Homework Help Center “that really caught my eye though.   Cool graphics, notebooks, and file folders are a fitting background to good, basic homework information.  “Getting Started” isn’t your usual treatise on determining your subject, it’s an actual guide for using library resources!  “Still Stuck?” is another great feature, inviting teens to the Homework Help Center, to make an appointment with the teen librarian, or e-mail by completing out a simple online form.

Rebecca Purdy is the youth services coordinator for the Central Rappahannock Regional Library system in Fredericksburg, Virginia.  The Web Surfers are a collection of teens willing to volunteer some of their time to see their names in print and help young adult librarians find good sites for their library blogs and Web pages.



  1. Somer says:

    Thanks for including the link to Houston Public Library’s blog post on QR codes! I do want to clarify, though, that the Black History playlist was compiled by Alexander Street and not HPL. I just used their QR code as an example.

  2. Corrected! Thank you!

  3. […] June 2011: QR Codes […]

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