Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Cam23 2.0: Week 13, Extra Thing: QR codes

Think about how QR codes could be used in your library. What are the benefits and the drawbacks?

The Haddon is already using QR codes on notices, generated from . We put them on handouts for new users and visitors. The codes link to the library's web pages.

I have considered using QR codes in the paper version of our list of useful links. I might yet do that; at the moment, my feeling is that a code for each link would clutter the thing, and that a single QR from that paper list to the web version would avoid that problem.

Have a go at generating a code of your own. Unfortunately you will only be able to read it if you have a phone with a barcode reader (e.g. QR Code Reader and Scanner for the iPhone or QR Droid for Android), but try and get someone to read it and test it out.

As indicated above, I have already generated QR codes for the Haddon. I lack a smartphone to read them myself. When I first put them out into the world I feared I might be in the position of the 4-year-old who scribbled all over a piece of paper and then said, "Mummy, when I go to school I'll be able to read that!"

I was showing off about the codes to one library user, and noticed that her phone looked smart enough to read them. But she'd never heard of QR codes. I conducted her to the nearest notice of ours that sported one, and then neither of us quite knew what to do next. Which part of the mobile should be pointed at the code? The reason for this embarrassing glitch, as Andy Priestner explained when I asked him, will have been that the phone lacked a QR reader app. Apparently they don't come built in, and a person who'd not heard of QR codes would hardly have downloaded such a thing.

I tried the QR codes again on a group from a Sutton Trust summer school. One of them pointed a mobile phone at the code, and the code led the phone to our web page. Better still was the answer from the member of the Open Cambridge group whom I asked if the results were mobile friendly. On the other hand, a question in that context isn't exactly rigorous market research, and smartphone users' views on our pages are hereby sought.

If you're feeling fancy, try making a personalised code!

OK, here it comes. The text is a stage direction from a sitcom episode by the late lamented N.F. Simpson (1979:486), which has been a catchphrase of mine for over thirty years.

SIMPSON, N.F. 1979. The best I can do by way of a table-leg is a hundredweight of coal. In Paul Jennings (ed.), The book of nonsense: an anthology. London: Futura, pp. 460-487.


  1. If I gave N.F. Simpson credit for the text of the QR code, then I shd also have given Annie credit for the text of the bold headings. They are from her cam23 post at .

  2. I agree that a QR code for each link on a handout would be a bit much. When I get home tonight I will try and remember to test out your website on my phone :)

  3. Just a thought - have you tried creating QR codes for ebooks? I wonder if they could be added to the shelves somehow so that if there wasn't a print version the student could go straight to the ebook? Or maybe add them to reading lists?? Not quite sure how this would work ....

  4. I suspect that by the time I got to that wheeze, we'd have reached the tipping point where ebooks had become people's first port of call anyway, and you'd only be looking at such a thing as a bookshelf if an ebook wasn't available. QR codes in reading lists the same but more so -- a person able to use ebooks wd presumably get the lists delivered online, and the links cd be embedded in them there.