Funky Bar Codes Make Smart Phones Smarter

You may have noticed the new sign outside the Law Library computer lab with the funky looking bar code on it (a QR Code).  What does it do?  It allows our patrons who have a smart phone (like an iPhone or BlackBerry) to download a free application (like NeoReader or the Google Goggles App for iPhone or Android), and then take a picture of the bar code with that app… The app then launches their smart phone’s web browser and takes them to the room schedule page so that they can see when the lab is booked for classes.  While this is useful, it hopefully will be a lot more useful once we are using the Main UVic Library’s room booking system, so that students will be able to check the availability of a room, and then book it from their cell phone while standing in front of the room.

This is just a trial to see what sort of uptake we get from students, and how helpful they find it. Some other possible uses for this technology in the library are:

  • Study room availability and room booking as I already mentioned.
  • Library tours – posters in different areas of the library with the bar codes so that students can access information relevant to that particular space. Audio tours can also be provided this way.
  • Library Maps – Instead of just a map that has, Reference, Reserve, Computer Lab on it, put QR codes for each area that has a web page, so that the patron can go directly to that web page for more information.
  • SMS reference service via a 2D bar code on the library web site.
  • Library Reviews – if someone has done a review on a book or item, a bar code can be put on that item, linking to the review.
  • Event Posters – if there is a web page associated with an event, a bar code linking to that web page can be put on the poster.
  • Link to Phone number on a web page so people don’t have to dial the number on their phone.

While installing the bar code scanner app on an iPhone is quite easy, it remains to be seen how many students have a smart phone capable of reading the bar codes, and how many of those students will actually find this useful. I just sent a survey out to law students, asking in part what cell phone they use, so we should have some good data on the number of students who have a device that can read the 2D bar codes in a week or two.

I have also spoken briefly with Ben Naylor about how the LSS might find this technology useful in their communications with students.  If multiple organizations in the Fraser building begin to use it, and enough students have cell phones that can read the 2D bar codes, we can hopefully make all our lives a little bit easier.

If you want to create a 2D bar code, here is a link to a free QR Code Generator that anyone can use.  Let me know if you have any other ideas on how we could use this technology!


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