QR Code is the new edupunk!

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The edupunk approach to mobile services as described by Tiffinianne’s blog (2011) strikes a chord for all the libraries who say they want mobile services but cannot afford them or have the technical know-how to implement them. An especially important point she makes is the Pew Research that shows the high proportion of minority cell phone users who use their phone for Internet access. What this means for libraries is that implementing mobile apps or structuring library services so that they can be accessed through mobile phones should be of utmost priority given the clear mission of libraries to help population segments such as minorities.

The QR Code can spearhead any mobile movement in a library because of its pure simplicity. A code of any information can be created for free, with a physical representation of the code in the library taped somewhere (a table, a bookcase, a poster, a flyer) leading to an online location with relevant information or instructions. Hill’s (2009) exploration of QR code technology and the excellent story about the squirrel and the park bench illustrates how the physical world and online world can be connected by this little box of squiggly black dots. Even though Cummings (2011) argues that the QR Code is failing, it is because of the non-creativity of users rather than the technical faults of QR Codes themselves. Imagine what new dimensions the library can bring to its services and programming with his examples of using QR Codes for scavenger hunts, unique info about a current book promotion, or giving the user the ability to give feedback directly to a person in the library!

In a post by Valerie Kingsland in the class group site “The Hyperlinked Library in Images,” a Bucharest subway station made use of QR Codes by printing a virtual library from floor to ceiling down the length of the platform! (Friendly-staff, 2012). While waiting for a train, patrons could browse the spines of books and use QR Codes to download a book and read it on the train, or wherever they go. I believe it will be very soon when physical libraries will set up small sections of virtual stacks in the same way, so that users can download e-books or audio books to their mobile phones or book readers. If virtual stacks are too expensive, then why not a few recommendations for books on bookmarks or business cards ordered free from a site such as Vistaprint?

But, as one library found, you can create QR codes for just about anything for users who need help!

With creativity and ingenuity, librarians can edupunk different mobile products or services that are fun, informative, educational and needed. Given the use of mobile phones by the segment populations that we need to reach most, these technologies will keep libraries in the forefront of their minds.

Cummings, S. X. (2011, October 14). Why the QR code is failing [Web log posting]. Retrieved from http://www.imediaconnection.com/article_full.aspx?id=30267

Friendly-staff. (2012, October 5). Stunning idea: digital library in Bucharest subway station [pictures] [Web log posting]. Retrieved from http://ebookfriendly.com/2012/10/05/digital-library-on-the-bucharest-metro-station-pictures/

Hill, N. (2009, July). Nate Hill explores QR code technology and how it can bridge the gap between online communities and the physical world. Library Journal. Retrieved from http://www.libraryjournal.com/lj/ljinprintnetconnect/888302-335/nate_hill_explores_qr_code.html.csp

Travis, T. (2011, January 22). Edupunk goes mobile: Mobile library sites with zero budget [Web log posting]. Retrieved from http://tiffinianne.wordpress.com/2011/01/22/8/



Mickel is an MLIS and the creator of Library Currents. His inspiration for the blog was the SJSU course "The Hyperlinked Library" taught by Dr. Michael Stephens, a course that is also a worldwide MOOC. If you wish to contact him, feel free to write to Mickel Paris at librarycurrents1@aol.com.


  1. Jan Oliver

    November 4, 2012 at 9:50 pm

    Thanks for the video and all the clever uses for QR codes. As I too looked into libraries using the technology this week, the more I began to disagree with Schmidt assessment to forgo them. It seems to me that if a library wishes to be “hyperlinked” then QR codes are one of the means to do so, and if they serve to connect users with on-the-spot information, then they are fulfilling the library’s mission. I expect QR codes will become more prevalent as yet more clever uses for them are discovered.

  2. Mickel Paris

    November 12, 2012 at 5:58 am

    I agree and I think its just a matter of time before the general public catches on to QR codes. The iPhones and other smartphones will also catch on and make it easier to scan the codes without downloading new apps. The one thing that can be worrisome though is if the codes becomes invisible through ubiquitous placement. I noticed one just recently on the envelope of my gas bill… honestly I only noticed it because of the current readings from class. I haven’t noticed them from previous months. In a way that could be good if the codes get on everything: invisible when you don’t need them, but visible when you do!

  3. Carlie

    November 13, 2012 at 5:28 am

    Your idea about a QR code connected to a person made me curios, so I did a quick search and found this: http://www.qrpager.net/ Imagine using QR codes as a paging device? Amazing!

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