Tuesday, April 10, 2012

QR Codes for the Uninformed

One of the things I learned more about at the conference I attended a few weeks ago was QR codes. Not that I didn't know about them before, but still. It helps to take some time at a conference to look at other technologies and try to decide if they're worthwhile for your current situation or not. QR codes are definitely strange beasts.

For those of you who don't know, they're those little black and white checkerboard symbols you see pop up here and there. Like this one:

QR code
What do they do? They let someone use a smartphone to essentially take a picture of the code, which then is interpreted by software and takes the smartphone to a web page. Think of them like physical, tangible links to the internet.

Which is all fine and good, but how do you actually use them? Especially in a library? I've seen them used in retail and for advertisements, but up until the Computers in Libraries Conference, I hadn't really seen many realistic, useful uses I might consider implementing myself.

A couple of ideas were presented that had some merit, though. First off, some libraries were using them in the book stacks as a way to connect users to the online collection in a specific subject. So if someone were in the psychology section, she could scan the code and see what the library had online about the same subject. As more and more ebooks take off, I could see that becoming increasingly useful. And because you can use analytics, you can track the usage of those links to see if they're worth your while or not. That's definitely intriguing.

Then there's the no-brainer decision to include QR codes on promotional materials. Once again, since you can track usage, this actually gives you a way to see if your posters and ads are reaching anyone--or at least, if they're inspiring people to check out the QR links. It's not hard to make one (just go to goo.gl and type the link you want to connect to, then hit "details" and copy and paste the picture code wherever you need it)--so while I've been ignoring them for the last few years, I think the time has finally come for me to start exploring them more seriously.

Any of you have any experience with these? Tips or tricks? Do share!

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