Back in March this year I was fortunate enough to be able to attend the M-Libraries conference which was held here in Brisbane. There I realised that university libraries and public libraries around the world are grappling with the need to reach their clients through mobile technology. Why? According to Tony Kuesgen, Google’s head of technology in Australia and New Zealand, “More internet searches will be done on mobile phones than on desktop computers by 2013 as Australians increasingly embrace smart phones.” Read more at: Smartphones ‘to overtake desktops for internet.”
I attended a session by Michelle Turner and Joanna Witt of Charles Darwin University Library, and was intrigued by a Library Treasure Hunt which they had made up (see below), using QR codes to gather statistics on how their physical and virtual library services were being used. I decided that this idea would be a good one to try out on Open Day, and last weekend I was able to put it to the test.
QR stands for Quick Response, and these square barcodes are a way of connecting the real world with the online world – of connecting users, with a minimum of clicks, to some type of information: a website, a text message, an SMS, a podcast, a phone number. After lots of reading and researching, I decided to use QR Stuff and, due to its simplicity yet versatility, I would highly recommend it. Because I ran out of time (and because I thought that connecting to the internet on a mobile phone might put some parents off) I simply linked each QR code to a text message – presumably stored on the QR Stuff website. You can change the colour of the barcodes with QR Stuff, and the website creates the barcode on the right of the screen as you type. Once you have finished, download and save it, or copy into your document.
Next, I looked for free QR code readers which could be quickly downloaded. Most readers scan the barcode as soon as you line up the red sqaure on the screen around the barcode. My choice would be i-nigma, as it is very fast and clean, however some people chose to use BeeTagg instead – still a good choice because it’s free, but an extra click is required.
I set up 9 different clues around the Library, with each scanned code giving instructions for finding the next clue, and also asking a question which had to be answered. At each point the participants also had to collect a word, and then put them together in the right order to make sentence about reading. It’s essential at this point to number your codes, to make them highly visible (I backed them with bright green paper), and to make sure the whole thing is working. I had some student volunteers go around and try it out to make sure all the codes were in the right order and made sense.
So that people without smart phones on Open Day did not feel disadvantaged, we ran a traditional pen and paper treasure hunt as well. The prize for each was chocolate, but the QR code hunt took a lot longer than the other treasure hunt, so that is something I would look at in future.
I found that people needed a bit of help to understand what they were required to do. Maybe my instructions were too brief, or maybe they just didn’t read them. Kids did very well as long as a parent was there to help them. This week we have left the instructions and entry forms out for our students: some have picked it up quickly, and others have struggled a bit with the concept.
For Open Day I created a QR Codes poster, a QR Codes brochure, a QR Codes table sign, a QR Codes entry form and a QR Codes clue sheet. If you are interested, feel free to download and modify any of these documents from the BGS Library page at Scribd.
One parent was very keen to learn how I had created the codes because he had seen them around and wanted to use them in his business. A lot more businesses are using QR codes these days for advertisng their products, because the codes can instantly take people to their business website, email address, telephone number or message.
Benefits for the Library: it’s good to be one step ahead of the boys! We were also asked to showcase the use of technology in our department, and this was a good way to do that. We have experimented in the past with putting these codes on novels to link to an author’s website, but without a lot of uptake. I think it’s an idea worth pursuing though, especially when most students will soon carry a phone with them everywhere. I may start glueing them into the back of novels to quickly take the boys to more information about the book or the author, or to reviews written about the book. Another idea is to use them on our APA Referencing booklets to take students directly to the BibMe or EasyBib citation creation sites.
Other useful links:
http://www.launchsquad.com/blogs/whatsnew/2010/12/02/qr-codes-making-the-visceral-world-link-able/ – What are QR Codes?
QR Treasure Hunt Generator – Free online generator
QR Codes in Education – excellent PPT showing many ways QR codes can be used in the classroom
http://socialtimes.com/no-projector-use-qr-code-slideshare-to-share-a-presentation-on-smartphones_b73334 – Using QR codes for presentation