QR Codes in the school library

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by Kathy G

This post looks at quick response (QR) codes – what they are, how they work, and how you can use them in your school library to excite and encourage your students.

What is a QR code?

QR codeA quick response code is a barcode readable by smart phones and mobile devices with cameras. On the right is a basic QR code. It consists of black modules arranged in a square pattern (matrix) on a white background.
When you scan or read a QR code with your smart phone, it can:

  • link to websites or specific URLs;
  • activate a number of phone functions including email, and text messaging; connect the mobile device to a web browser.

A QR code placed on a book cover in the library, for example, could link to a video clip of the author reading their book, or to a website with reviews of the book – or to whatever the person who generated the code has decided would be a relevant link.

QR Codes are everywhere, originally developed in Japan in the mid-nineties as a means to track parts in vehicle manufacturing. QR codes are now used across many sectors. The explosion of the smart phone market has increased their usage and they are a popular marketing tool. Once you know what a QR code is you will be amazed at all the different places you find them. They are everywhere, from the back of buses, to billboards, magazines and now they feature in school libraries too!

How to read and create QR Codes

You need:

  • QR Code in LibraryA smart phone (for example Blackberry, iPhone, Android) or a mobile device with camera (for example iPad, iPod touch 4th gen)
  • A QR code reader /scanner application (app) installed on your phone. This is the software to scan QR codes.
  • A QR code generator site – Where you can make your own codes

Getting a QR code reader app

Many of the newer smart phones have a QR code reader app installed. If yours doesn’t, you can easily download one. There are plenty of free apps to choose from for all phone platforms.

A web search for ‘QR code reader, along with your phone type will return plenty of results, for example:

  • Android devices - Android market for example QR droid app
  • iPhones , iPads - ITunes app store for example i-nigma app

QR code generator sites

Just as there are many QR code reader apps available to download, there are plenty of free QR code generating sites to use, for example Kaywa is a popular choice.

QR code generating sites take a web address (URL), some text, or a text message, and instantly convert it into a ready-made QR code. Easy!

Tip: When generating your QR code, shorten the URL, use a service such as Bit.ly.

Not only will it shorten the URL it also automatically creates a QR code when you click the ‘Info page’ on the shortened url. Sites such as Bit.ly also allow you to monitor usage of your code, so you can see how often someone has scanned it. Great potential here for school library promotions!

QR codes in the School Library

QR StationNo mobile phones allowed in the library? No problem! If your school policy does not allow the use of mobile phones in the library, an option is to set up a dedicated station with a web cam and QR reader app. Students can both read and generate QR codes from the desk top station. This also ensures that students without smart phones do not miss out on the QR experience.

“Our Library has embraced World Cup Fever by placing QR codes on several of our Rugby World Cup Display books, thus offering the students more up-to-date information on the players and the teams. Our students are not only learning about The Rugby World Cup, but also about QR Codes. It truly is serious fun.” Annette McKitrick, Waimea Intermediate School

QR codes - the possibilities are endless

QR codes provide the opportunity to add an exciting new dimension to library resources and services – connecting students with extended or related information, enticing readers, and showcasing the library in an interesting new way. And you and your students can also have a lot of fun together! Here are a few examples to get you started:

  • Put a QR code in your classroom (or Library) window so people can see inside.
  • Paste a QR code on the book covers which lead to book reviews by other students.
  • Hide QR codes with text messages around the library for spot prizes.
  • Design some creative scavenger hunts – the students love them!
  • Embed QR codes directly into your School library blog, wiki and website.
  • Add QR codes on bookmarks, leading to your library catalogue, library website or other relevant sites for example the EPIC databases.
  • Generate a code to add to flyers promoting library services.
  • Make QR codes leading to library tutorials and orientation programmes.
  • Be creative and customise your QR codes, with images, colour and interesting text.

QR codes, just another fad?

Fashionable or not, if you want to motivate and engage students in their learning, QR codes are a fun way to do it. This quote from Library girl sums it up well. “I simply love the idea of kids spending time in the library, exploring new ideas and checking out new material based on the opportunity for inquiry provided by the QR Code. However, when this activity is followed by a reading experience that is informed by the student’s desire to find more, new and better resources to be linked to the title they are reading, well… that’s when QR Codes make the switch from just being a fun fad or cool gadget to a meaningful tool that can not only extend learning but also help cultivate a love of reading in our students”.

What do you think - another fad or a meaningful educational tool?

Further Reading

This great comic tutorial from the Daring librarian provides an excellent overview of QR codes.

And here is another helpful resource from the ‘Daring Librarian’ that explains the creating of QR codes in a visual format.

Images by The Daring Librarian and James F Clay

Image of Waimea Intermediate School Library QR station by Kathy G.