Libraries, Archives, QR Codes and Microsoft Tag

QR Codes like the one above are becoming more and more common. (This code was created using a free generator produced by the ZXing Project.) They appear on documents, posters, blogs, websites and other forms of advertisements. The prevalence will only increase in the future, because QR code generators are rampant on the Internet. A Google search of the phrase “QR Code Generator” on 11/6/2010 returns over 12 million results, and a Bing search for the same phrase returns 102 thousand results. (Note: these numbers were accurate at 12:15 a.m. on 11/6/10 future searches may return different numbers). Anyone can use a QR code generator to hold business card, appointment, website and text information to name only a few functions. Denso Wave created the QR code in 1994, although mainstream use is much more recent.

I first began considering the uses of the QR code in libraries and archives when I read an article that Michael Stephens linked to on his blog Tame The Web. The article, written by Lauren Barak and appearing in School Library Journal here, tells the story of a school librarian who taught his students how to create QR codes after learning the many ways libraries can use them. A QR code created for a specific title could “link to reviews, videos and even podcasts” (Barak, 2010).

So what does this have to do with the title of this blog entry, and where does Microsoft Tag fit in? Well, in 2009 Microsoft released the Microsoft Tag (Microsoft Tag Prints, 2010). Using colored triangles instead of the black and white styling of the standard QR Code, they stand out a little better against posters than the more traditional QR Code. Beyond the colorful triangles, Microsoft Tags are customizable, like the one shown below. That’s my pink Jupiter photo I blogged about previously, and a better photo can be seen through my Flickr account.

There are benefits to using the Microsoft Tag over the traditional QR code. As noted earlier, the many colors used in the Microsoft Tag makes it stand out a little more against a poster background. If the picture is customized and blown up, it could attract attention and be scanned by a patron from across the room. (In fairness, traditional QR codes can be blown up to be scanned from a distance as well.) The best feature of the Microsoft Tag is that if users create their Tags from Microsoft’s website, they can view statistics to determine how many times the Tag has been scanned. Those statistics are a great way of determining if patrons are using the Tag, and are sadly not available through most of the free QR code generators that I have looked at. One negative of the Tag over the QR code is that it needs a separate dedicated application to read the Tags, something some users may want to avoid downloading to save space in their phone memory.

So how can libraries and archives use QR codes or Microsoft Tags to enhance user experiences? Add them to posters and announcements for special events and programs. Include one on the library or archive’s Contact Us web page so that patrons can scan contact information directly into their phones. Consider adding them to library catalogs including the item’s call number so that patron’s can locate the item quickly. Archives can add them to their digital collections, linking users to additional items to view in their own or other archives or museums. They could be added to finding aids so that employees could scan location information quickly when looking for a document for a patron. Employees can add them to business cards to provide easily scanned contact information to other colleagues. There are a whole host of ways that this technology can be used to enhance the employee and patron experience. Why not leave me a comment with your ideas?

Both the QR code and the Microsoft Tag in pictured in this blog are functional by the way. They provide you with a link back to the main page of my blog. Try them out, and see how you like them!

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Filed under Archives, Library, Library Issues

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