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Using QR Codes to Promote Your Library

by Barbara Zinkovich

*This article originally appeared in the January 2015 issue of Kids & Books.*

QR codes seem to be everywhere! For the uninitiated, QR codes are the square barcodes you find on just about anything today  --  from food labels to store coupons to visitor guide brochures --  accessible with a QR reader that can be downloaded to any smartphone or tablet device. Once scanned, the codes link to a source (a video or website, for example) that provides more information on a particular topic. For that reason, QR codes can make an effective promotional tool.

Editor's note: LibraryAware makes using QR Codes to promote your library's programs easy. 

Getting started

While there isn’t much to creating or using QR codes, there are a few things to think about before you jump in. There are many, many options for QR code creators, readers and video hosting needs. For video hosting, I use Vimeo. After I tested a free version for a year, our school upgraded to a premium account to host videos for school projects and those that I link to our library’s website. You can also link QR codes to YouTube videos. To create the actual QR code, I use QR Stuff. It’s easy to use, you just copy and paste the URL of your video or webpage into their form and you can either print or embed a unique QR code into a document or webpage.

Here are some specific examples of how I used QR codes to promote our school library’s programs and services. The beauty of using QR codes is that they can be used whether you’re communicating to parents, faculty or students.

Orientation videos

After reorganizing the physical layout of my library over the summer, I wanted to introduce the changes to students during their first orientation classes at the beginning of the year. I created short videos, uploaded them to our school Vimeo account, and then created QR codes to post in different locations in the library. Students worked in pairs and used library iPads to scan the QR codes. After viewing the videos, students then answered questions about the library procedures and collections.

Video topics included:

  • How to use the self-checkout station
  • Overview of our student magazine collection
  • Direct link to the library webpage highlighting databases and specific information
  • How to sign in to the library when using a pass or during study hall
  • Using the library catalog

Students enjoyed moving around and accessing the information on their own with a friend -- way better than listening to last year’s PowerPoint presentation!

Student projects

International Night. QR codes are an easy way to display student work for special events and parent visits. Our Grade 5 students study one country in-depth for the better part of a year, then present various class and collaborative projects to the school community on International Night. Students sewed their own costumes for the event during school and filmed one another in costume giving a speech about their country, the traditional dress, and any meaning behind the clothes or fabric. We printed large pictures of the students in costume with the QR code on the same page. Placed in clear plastic frames on tables, parents were able to scan the codes and watch their children’s videos during transition times throughout the evening’s program.

Caldecott Study. During a Grade 4 Caldecott study, students worked in Art class to draw a portrait of a character from a favorite Caldecott Award-winning book. In library class they wrote book reviews of their chosen stories and I filmed them reciting their reviews. During Children’s Book Week, we created a mural of these book characters with accompanying QR codes linking to the video book talks and displayed them in the hallways.

Mystery QR codes

Always the ham, I am never too shy to appear on camera especially when I can promote great books.  Since our Grade 6-8 students have their own iPads and look for ways to use them at all times, I had fun creating “mystery” QR codes that linked to book talk videos and posting them around campus. The mystery QR codes were an effort to encourage students to read over winter vacation. I printed QR codes that linked to six book talk videos promoting new books for our older students. Then I placed them in different areas throughout our school and waited for (the inevitable) tween curiosity to take over. I repeated the same message at the end of each video: “Stop by the library to check out a book before winter break and if you mention this video, I will give you a treat!” It only took approximately 30 minutes to film six book talk videos but they take several more minutes each to load into Vimeo to then create and print the QR code. I mounted each one on a piece of cardstock, labelled it “Mystery QR” -- done!

Publisher book trailers

Similar to videos created by me or by my students, I have created QR codes that link to book trailers posted on author or publisher websites. I tape them to the back cover of books and students can grab an iPad in the library and scan the QR codes to watch the video before making a decision about checking out the book.

Curriculum Night brochure/Library Info brochure

Early in the fall we have Back-to-School night to meet parents and explain course curricula and programs. My school requires a handout or brochure to distribute that evening or to send home to parents who are unable to attend. A few QR codes that link to student documents, videos or the library webpage make a larger statement than just text alone. For each grade I teach, I add a QR code (corresponding to the written outline of the course curriculum) that showcases one of our yearly projects.

Issues/Problems

Nothing that has to do with technology is ever seamless.

Tips:

  • Be sure to scan QR codes every so often to check that they are still linking to an active website, video or blog.
  • Decide whether or not you want to include videos that link to YouTube since on YouTube, you cannot control what ads might pop up.
  • Is excess noise from several playing videos going to be a problem? If so, decide whether providing or requesting earbuds is an option.
  • Create a sign or flyer that links to a free QR reader download and also have extra mobile devices ready to loan if you are promoting an event that requires participants to have a reader.

Kids Love Technology

Bottom line: my students will go the extra mile to find information or learn something new if they have an iPad or iPhone in hand! QR codes provide a new twist on an age-old mission -- getting great books into the hands of young people. None of these activities took as long as the actual lesson or program took to create. Just one short, additional step provides an engaging way for students to interact with new information or stories. 

 
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Barbara S. Zinkovich, a former classroom teacher, is a National Board certified library media specialist at Derby Academy in Hingham, Massachusetts.