After reading about them for years, QR codes (i.e. quick response codes) have finally picked up traction here in the states. QR code's potential lies in automating information retrieval and bridging the physical world to online resources. By using the camera on one's smart device loaded with the appropriate software, users can take a picture of the code and automatically gather Web addresses, location and contact information, small amounts of text, and other important pieces of information.
Through QR codes, libraries are beginning to experiment with new ways to improve user experience and broaden users' information gathering capabilities. Examples includes linking to catalog records, reader advisory services, marketing/resource discovery through scavenger hunts, and other inventive uses. Contra Costa County Library's Snap & Go project has even partnered with the WestCATbusline to offer audio books via a download to the user's cell phone. From this perspective, the library is able to extend into non-traditional locations with minimal capital. The opportunities for libraries also include increased positive impressions and usage frequency. QR codes could be a powerful reinforcement of the library's commitment to the communities it serves.
With all the potential for QR codes, I can't help but ponder how their usage further increases a mobile divide. Librarians in the 90's rightly questioned how to provide services for those who do not own computers. The digital divide is still a concern, but less so now in the U.S. Libraries have, especially in urban settings, negated issues of the digital divide through computer acquisitions. However, mobile devices, in particular smart phones capable of reading & translating qr codes, can not be treated the same. The cost of acquiring smart devices just for additional resource discovery does not outweigh the benefit. Thus, the usage of QR codes is an added benefit for those who have the means to own the devices.
Libraries would also be diverting resources to a small, but admittedly growing, population. In 2010, CNN cited Forrester Research indicating smartphone ownership is only 17% of the 82% of Americans that actually have cell phones.
Personally, I would not let these issues deter me from incorporating QR codes within a library. The opportunity to increase information discovery, community touchpoints, and add greater value to users' experience outweigh the costs.
Hello, my name is Bryan, and I'm a 21st century librarian.
"What's that?" you ask. Librarians in the 21st century are precisionists. They use their skills to access, organize, store, and disseminate information in a world that is information intensive. They are part Swiss Army Knife, ninja, and teacher. They help your organization & community build upon the rich knowledge that is present, and they ensure the knowledge will be there for you & generations thereafter.
The content and opinions expressed on this blog do not reflect the views and opinions of my employer. If you should take any issue with any aspect of this site (aesthetics, info organization, the cropped photo of me at La Fogata) or my comments posted on external websites using this account, please feel free to send me a note.