QR Codes

Just sat in on a webinar organized by the LITA Mobile Computing Interest Group. It’s not a group that I follow, but a colleague (thanks, Bob Duncan) alerted me to this:

Handheld Tube Tours:  Increasing orientation engagement with viral videos and mobile devices
- Sean CordesInstruction Services Coordinator, Western Illinois University Libraries

Library orientation tours are helpful, but for many students, if you’ve seen one service point, you’ve seen them all. This presentation describes the practice of incorporating the You Tube viral video format with handheld devices to energize and engage students during library orientation tours. Topics include best practices for creating viral library content, and triumphs and challenges of using handheld devices to support library orientation tours including device availability, connectivity, sequencing content, and pacing the handheld supplemented tour.

I was interested because I organize the library orientation program for first years every Fall. For the past two years, I’ve harnessed students’ phones and used QR codes as part of the program, which is designed as a scavenger hunt. I’ve presented on this and been written up in the Chronicle of Higher Ed’s “The Wired Campus” blog as well as ACRLog. But really, my use of QR codes has been very basic: students collect clues in the form of text or images via QR codes that can then be unscrambled to find a mystery location. It’s an old-fashioned scavenger hunt stepped up just a bit with technology. That’s been fine with me, since part of the message I’m trying to get across to students is that the library is a place where the new and old collide. They’re using their smartphones and QR codes to find an old object that’s usually held in Special Collections: the Marquis de Lafayette’s sword.

I originally thought that introducing QR codes to first years would open up an opportunity for me to start using them in the library, but I haven’t done anything more with them…yet. Sean got me thinking again. Now that I have some iMovie skills, why not create short videos not just for the library web site but for placement around the building? I don’t think I’ll be investing the kind of time that it took him to create Western Illinois’s zombie video, but I can see placing short videos via QR codes around the building to help explain call numbers, locations, and compact shelving, among other ideas. So I’m going to add this as part of my first iMovie video challenge to myself — that it should be a video that is location-specific and can be accessed via a QR code somewhere in the library building.

Sean mentioned that you can track analytics now on QR usage (they do it using a Google URL shortener and Google Analytics) and that’s really appealing. I know there are plenty of other libraries out there using QR codes in their catalogs and around their buildings, but has anyone been tracking their usage? Is the jury still out on whether QR codes are a fad or a useful technology?

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2 responses to “QR Codes

  1. Kevin

    While I was redesigning our acceptance packet this year, I thought it may be advantageous to place one or two QR codes in hopes of engaging the prospective students and maybe even their parents. After a few meetings, we decided to place a code linking to our Launch your Life video on our acceptance website and also a profile video on faculty/student research. We will also be tracking the usage through google analytics. Since the bulk of the packets will be mailed Feb./March it will be a bit until we see how many hits we received from the packet. Stay tuned…

  2. I’m just about to report to our senior management with suggestions for how our library service can make best use of QR codes. Our focus is on making the invisible library visible – so for the students who complain we don’t have any new books, we’ll link to the many electronic books they can’t see on the shelves, or to the electronic journals that continue the older closed runs of print. But also directions, opening times, how to get help – these things can be placed out in the faculties and other learning spaces and hopefully give visibility of the library to those students who think it isn’t relevant because they have never been to the library building. One of our campuses tried a QR scavenger hunt, but there was no take up. We also have a 40 second video on how to print ready to go. We’ll definitely be using Google Analytics when we do it though – for things that go to a URL, anyway.

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