I know I’m way behind the curve on the whole QR craze. I’m not particularly fond of advertisements in general, so I’m not going to visit a website, like a company on Facebook, or scan a QR code just because an ad tells me it’s “cool” to do so. I like what I like and not much is going to change my mind.
Up until recently, this is what I thought about QR codes – useless advertising gimmicks. But lately I’ve started seeing them used in useful, relevant (to me anyway) ways. An author puts a QR code on her card and it takes you to her website or contact page; a library puts one a book so a reader can scan it and find the same book in e form; using them as easy access points for people on the go.
Since I’m not in public or academic libraries, new technologies tend to pass me by because my users are either not that tech savvy or simply don’t have the time or interest to check out whatever’s new in the library. I had dismissed library use of QR codes as another useless gimmick better suited for a different kind of library, until I started thinking about them as access points.
Promotion of library resources is a huge part of my job. Not only do I have buy and use the product, I have to convince others to use it so it will be worth the price and won’t get cut from the budget. Large venders provide posters, flyers, pens, other forms of swag to help with promotion, but some companies only post their promotional materials online and I don’t have access to a color printer. So it’s up to me to design flyers to advertise new products. Since I don’t have a color printer, I have to work doubly hard to make sure my flyers are attention-grabbing.
I’ve long been frustrated with my inability to make good flyers; black text on a piece of colored paper is just not that eye-catching. And any time I try to add clip art, it just ends up looking silly. But then I started seeing QR codes used in other ways besides advertising and realized that they might be a great way to alert users to the library’s resources.
Because my budget for such things is non-existent, I knew I had to find a free way to create QR codes. I first tried Kaywa, which was super easy and seemed like a good way to go until I realized I had to pay to access my usage statistics. Statistics are a librarian’s best friend; I need to know if I’m wasting my time or not. Well, I can’t afford to pay for a QR code service, so it was on to something else.
Somehow, don’t ask me how because I don’t remember, I found out that Google has a url shortner that includes click and access stats as well as a QR code to use in advertising your new short link. Despite still being furious with Google for taking away Google Reader and inventing Google+, Google is free and pretty much everything Google does works.
Right now I’m only using QR codes to point users in the direction of our new electronic resources. Unless they prove to be astoundingly popular, I can’t foresee many other uses. Today is only day 2, so I don’t know what to expect (although it looks like I had some scans over the weekend!). I do think this is a good idea, used or not, and it seems I’ve solved my problem of only making boring flyers. 🙂