Connect with Mobile Users Using QR Barcodes

An easy way to connect with your mobile users is to add a QR barcode with your contact information to your library website. Users can scan the barcode right from the screen to add your library to their contacts. This is faster than adding the library information by keying it into the phone’s contacts program, and the information added by scanning the barcode is likely to be more accurate and more complete than what would have been keyed in by hand (or thumb?) on a tiny keyboard.
QR barcodes are two-dimensional, square barcodes that can hold much more information than the conventional barcodes our circulation systems use on books and library cards. These codes can be read by cameraphones that have built-in support for QR or using an barcode app. There are lots of different apps out for different makes and models of smartphone — the easiest way to find one is probably to just check your phone’s app marketplace or look in the official or unofficial online support forums for your phone.

But you don’t need to have a phone capable of reading QR barcodes in order to create your own. There are sites that can generate a QR barcode from a form. I used QR Code Generator from the ZXing Project to make the contact code in the sidebar of this blog.

The first step is to choose a Contents type — Contact, calendar event, SMS, e-mail, etc. The content type is part of the infomation in the barcode, and it tells the smartphone what to do with the information. If I scan something with the content type Contact, for example. my options are the add a new contact, to open the address in a map, call the phone number, or send a message to the e-mail address. You can try scanning the library QR barcode on the left to test this on your own phone.

If you don’t have a phone to use to test QR barcodes, the ZVing Decoder Online can show you the contents of a QR code. You just enter the URL to the barcode file or upload the file itself, and the decoder shows you what it says. Here’s the decoder’s report on the contact barcode in the sidebar of this blog: Contact: Elizabeth Thomsen

You can use QR barcodes for all sorts of things, on and off your website. The one to the right is in the calendar format, and scanning it makes it easy for a mobile user to add a library event directly to their phone’s calendar program. QR barcodes are especially useful when you want to direct users to a service that’s specifically aimed at mobile devices users, like a reference by texting service, or the mobile version of your library’s catalog or databases.

There are lots of other creative ways to use QR barcodes, but the easiest and possibly the most useful is the library contact information, which makes it easy for your library users to get your information into their phones so they will always be able to find you when they need you!