Using QR Codes in Libraries – Thoughts and a Free QR Code Generator

QR Codes – Mobile’s Secret Decoder Ring

There seems to be quite an interest about the use of QR codes in libraries lately. I personally have mixed feelings and am still wondering if it’s a bandwagon worth jumping on just yet.

Are they cool? Yes. They’re a cell phone’s version of a secret decoder ring. They definitely have a form factor. But are they worth taking the time to QR Code a whole bunch of text and urls, then work at getting patrons and customers excited about using them (of course, after they have discovered and downloaded an app that works for their particular phone)?

I’m simply not sure and am going to need a little bit more convincing before I get excited.

By the way, if you’re excited or just curious about them, here’s a great QR Code Generator from, no registration required.

I’ve enjoyed seeing Google’s Favorite Places QR Codes around San Francisco, yet recently read this post about a QR scanner reading the code wrong. Personally, I’ve had good and bad experiences with the reader, mostly using it to test them out (I have yet to see one in the real world compelling enough to break out my phone and use my BeeTagg iPhone App, but I’m ready for when I do). I’m not sure if it’s the reader or my aiming abilities, some times it has taken a few snaps to get it right.

Secret Decoder Ring
A Christmas Story is my favorite movie to watch during the holidays. It’s a classic that will always be watched by my family. There’s a scene where Ralphie has waited for his Little Orphan Annie Secret Decoder Ring with great anticipation, finally gets it and runs upstairs, closes the door to be alone, then begins to decode his secret message. If you’ve seen the movie, you know how it turns out. Here it is in the form of a QR Code:

If you don’t remember the outcome: Ralphie is disappointed with the results.

One could argue that the problem isn’t the decoder ring, but the content that is disappointing, but let me pose a question: When you saw the QR Code above, did you pull out your phone to see what the code said? If so, great and thank you for participating! If not, I understand. This is my reasoning for the mixed feelings and I happen to LOVE mobile technologies.

The future of libraries and businesses is in mobile because it’s a device that is always with people. By being available to them everywhere, you increase your communication opportunities with more patrons and customers. That said, with so many different sub-technologies on mobile devices, at some point a choice has to be made on where you place your time, energy and money. Right now and for many years to come, text messaging is the most ubiquitous mobile technology outside of voice calls.

What’s Best About Them?
They’re free, they’re pretty cool and for those who have the software downloaded onto their phone, they can be quick and useful (although someone here with a Blackberry Curve disagrees about the quick).

Other Possibilities: Search Engine Optimization
I recently read on a search engine blog, a speculation that Google will read the codes and index the information in them (which is why we have one on our contact page). I’ll keep an eye out, but have yet to see any confirmation of this. This use, however, isn’t mobile.

My Pick for Coolest “Code” Library Mobile Technology: Red Laser
Red Laser is a barcode scanner (just like the ones at the check out). Why could it be great for libraries? Because patrons out in the world could scan books, DVDs, etc and instead of buying or renting them at the store, see if their library has it, then put it on hold. Definitely a bigger jump in programming on the library side of things, but very useful bridging the gap between the library and being out in the world. OCLC and Occipital have already caught on to this and partnered to build a WorldCat Local App.

Do you think QR Codes will be worth your time, energy and money? If so, how do you see them working best?

By the way, for those of you who didn’t pull out your phone to snap the QR Code, here’s the response (the same one Ralphie got in the movie):

Published by nc

CEO and Co-Founder of Mosio, a mobile agency and the creators of Text a Librarian.

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  1. I think, that for a technology that is completely free, still new and slightly mysterious, and very exciting, that it couldn’t hurt to at least try it. I have seen these both on movie posters and in magazines (and while I didn’t yet then have a QR reader on my phone) I sure wanted one. Desperately. If only to see what mysterious thing was hidden from the rest of us (even though I knew it was just a product advertisement or a movie trailer for a movie I didn’t even want to see).

    I think that libraries have nothing to lose and all to gain for at least trying to connect with the patrons. I can see this for use most in the YA section. Imagine it now – a QR treasure hunt in the library – A “Choose your own adventure” QR night. The possibilities are endless, the younger generation is fully embracing these new and cool technologies.

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