Thing #89: QR Codes

This month’s Thing has been borrowed and modified from the ANZ 23 Mobile Things program, run by the ALIA NGAC (Australian Library and Information Association New Generation Advisory Committee) and New Professionals Network NZ.

They’re popping up everywhere! Those little boxes that you can scan with a mobile phone. Welcome to the world of QR Codes – Quick Response Codes.

QR codes are useful IF your library patrons know what to do with them and if your staff knows how to generate them to connect your physical and online spaces.

So what do these boxes/codes look like? Here’s one:




If you know how to scan QR Codes, why not find out what this links to?

Let’s find out a little more about these boxes – but don’t look too closely, as you might start seeing pictures in them. :-)

What are they? What do they do? Who invented them?

QR Codes were originally invented in 1994 by Denso Wave, a Japanese company that is a subsidiary of Toyota Motor Corporation in their quest to track car parts during the automotive assembly process. They are 2 dimensional barcodes that provide substantially more flexibility than standard barcodes. Standard barcodes can only contain 20 alpha-numeric characters. QR Codes can contain 7,089 numeric or 4,296 alphanumeric characters, including non-alphabet characters, such as Japanese and Chinese characters. This gives much greater flexibility. QR Codes boomed throughout Japan in the 1990s, as people recognised the marketing potential of them. They then gained huge popularity in the USA and other parts of the world through the 2000s.

They can provide links to company web addresses, competition pages, information sign-up pages, email contact forms etc. Unlike barcodes, they can be read from any direction. Some QR codes even interact with your smartphone so that your phone automatically dials a certain number. QR codes in magazines and/or books often take readers to additional online content.

Here’s a great video introduction to QR Codes:

You can see QR Codes anywhere where a company, organisation, or person wants to market a product to, provide more information to, or connect with, other people. Possible locations for QR codes include marketing posters, billboards, static displays, items of mail, business cards, QR code tattoos on skin, a wide range of products, product packaging, labels, information signs for tourists, t-shirts, stickers, wine bottles, on teachers webpages and worksheets etc. etc. They’ve even been used on tombstones, to provide information about the person interred!. (I’m sure there are more places where QR codes are seen… where else have you seen a QR code?) QR codes can also be generated on your smartphone for discount vouchers, tickets and other entry documentation, then when you arrive at the place the voucher/ticket etc. is for, the shopkeeper can scan the QR code on your phone. This can be used for store discounts as well.

How easy is it to create QR codes?

QR codes are REALLY easy to create. You just have to post the web address of whatever you want the QR code to link to into one of the hundreds code creators on the Internet, such as:

  • Kaywa
  • QR Code Generator
  • QR Stuff
  • Use QRpedia to create a QR code to link to a Wikipedia article of your choice.
  • URL shortener site can also generate QR codes, and it also tracks viewing statistics. After your short URL has been created, click “Details” to see the QR code.

How can you read QR codes?

There are many QR reader apps available for all the varieties of smartphone that are out there. These are just a few of the options:

What possibilities are there for libraries in the use of QR codes?

A number of libraries are already using QR codes very successfully in meeting the needs of their customers.

Dutch libraries use QR codes in a project encouraging kids to read more – QR Codes in books link to videos of kids recommending the book.

Immersive Library project at NTU Libraries – QR codes provide streamed audio biographies as well as bibliographies of business leaders.

QR Code Christmas Display – QR codes on books link to related videos and information.

QR Code Quest: a Library Scavenger Hunt

Where in the Library is Carmen Sandiego?: An Interactive Library Mystery Game

A public library that only uses QR codes – An Austrian city without a public library plasters QR codes with free books throughout its streets.

There are even more stories of libraries using QR codes in the Library Success: A Best Practices Wiki.


  1. Use one of the QR Code Generators to create your own QR Code.
  2. If you have a smartphone, download one of the QR Code Readers and use it to scan any QR codes you can find.
  3. Create a blog post about your exploration of QR Codes. Include a QR Code you created in your blog post, so we can see what you came up with. Some ideas to think about:
    • Are QR Codes just a passing fad or a brilliant marketing and outreach tool?
    • Are they easy or difficult to create and use?
    • How can libraries get more creative with QR Codes?
    • Do you have any stories of trying out QR Codes in your library that have either worked or not worked?
Posted in Thing | 3 Comments

Book Thing #38: Cyberbooks by Ben Bova

We’re going fictional again with this Month’s BookThing: Cyberbooks by Ben Bova.


CyberbooksComputer genius Carl Lewis has invented the “Cyberbook”, an electronic device that instantly and inexpensively brings the written word to the masses. But not everyone warms to Carl’s ideas. Add corporate spies, authors threatening to strike, and a wave of mysterious murders, and you have Ben Bova at his best.





About the authors:

Ben BovaBorn in Philadelphia, Ben Bova worked as a newspaper reporter, a technical editor for Project Vanguard (the first American satellite program), and a science writer and marketing manager for Avco Everett Research Laboratory, before being appointed editor of Analog, one of the leading science fiction magazines, in 1971. After leaving Analog in 1978, he continued his editorial work in science fiction, serving as fiction editor of Omni for several years and editing a number of anthologies and lines of books, including the “Ben Bova Presents” series for Tor. He has won science fiction’s Hugo Award for Best Editor six times.

A published SF author from the late 1950s onward, Bova is one of the field’s leading writers of “hard SF,” science fiction based on plausible science and engineering. Among his dozens of novels are Millennium, The Kinsman Saga, Colony, Orion, Peacekeepers, Privateers, and the Voyagers series. Much of his recent work, including Mars, Venus, Jupiter, Saturn, The Precipice, and The Rock Rats, falls into the continuity he calls “The Grand Tour,” a large-scale saga of the near-future exploration and development of our solar system.

A President Emeritus of the National Space Society and a past president of Science-fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, in 2001 Dr. Bova was elected a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). He lives in Naples, Florida, with his wife, the well-known literary agent Barbara Bova.

To earn 2 CE credits answer the following three questions in a 300 word blog post or a three minute video posted to your blog:

  1. What did you / what can librarians learn from this book?
  2. How might the focus of this book impact library service?
  3. How might the focus of this book impact library users?

If you would like to plan ahead, next month’s book will be What the Dormouse Said: How the Sixties Counterculture Shaped the Personal Computer Industry by John Markoff.

Please contact the Information Services Team if you’d like to check out any of these titles from the Commission. Thanks.

Posted in BookThing | Leave a comment

Thing #88: Zamzar

Zamzar logoThis month we’re going to take a look at a simple yet powerful tool. Once that you might not need every day, but will make you someone’s hero when you pull it out of your online toolbox: Zamzar

Public computers, or even staff computers, without the proper software to deal with certain files can be the bane of a library’s existence. So, what do you do when a patron comes in with a Works document and you don’t have anything to open it with?

Zamzar to the rescue!

Zamzar supports over 1200 different conversions – Video Converter, Audio Converter, Music Converter, eBook Converter, Image Converter, CAD Converter – THE multipurpose converter

At it’s most simple level all you need to do is upload the file, choose what format to convert it to, enter an e-mail address, and click convert. Once the conversion has finished, the submitted e-mail address will receive a message with a link to the converted file. (How long the conversion takes will vary, but it usually just takes a few minutes.)

Additionally, you can switch to the URL Converter tab, and instead of uploading a file, submit the URL of a file or Web page you wish to convert.

You do not need to sign up for an account, but if you do, you’ll be given the ability to convert larger files (up to 1GB instead of the free 100MB,) have them keep your converted files for a longer period of time, and be able to get back to those files easily without needing to keep the e-mail.

So, give it a shot. Find some files and convert them to other formats. Then let us know what you think of the service?


  1. Pick a few files and convert them.
  2. Write a blog post about your experience. Some things to think about:
    1. How good were the conversions?
    2. How long did conversion take on average?
    3. Was there a situation in the past for which you wish you knew of this tool?
    4. Are you aware of other tools that perform a similar service? If so, how do they compare to Zamzar?
Posted in Thing | 2 Comments

Book Thing #37: Information Doesn’t Want to be Free by Cory Doctorow

This Month’s BookThing is Information Doesn’t Want to be Free: Laws for the Internet Age by Cory Doctorow.


Information doesn't want to be free by cory doctorowIn sharply argued, fast-moving chapters, Cory Doctorow’s Information Doesn’t Want to Be Free takes on the state of copyright and creative success in the digital age. Can small artists still thrive in the Internet era? Can giant record labels avoid alienating their audiences? This is a book about the pitfalls and the opportunities that creative industries (and individuals) are confronting today — about how the old models have failed or found new footing, and about what might soon replace them. An essential read for anyone with a stake in the future of the arts, Information Doesn’t Want to Be Free offers a vivid guide to the ways creativity and the Internet interact today, and to what might be coming next.


About the authors:

Cory Doctorow

Cory Doctorow is a science fiction author, activist, journalist, and blogger, as well as the coeditor of Boing Boing ( and the author of young adult novels like Homeland, Pirate Cinema, and Little Brother and novels for adults including Rapture of the Nerds and Makers. The former European director of the Electronic Frontier Foundation and cofounder of the U.K. Open Rights Group, he lives in London.

Amanda Palmer rose to fame as the lead singer, pianist, and lyricist for the acclaimed band The Dresden Dolls, and performs as a solo artist as well as collaborating with artists including Jonathan Richman and her husband, author Neil Gaiman. She is the author of The Art of Asking.

Neil Gaiman is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of more than twenty books for readers of all ages, and the recipient of numerous literary awards, including the Shirley Jackson Award and the Locus Award for Best Novelette for his story “The Truth Is a Cave in the Black Mountains.” Originally from England, he now lives in America.

To earn 2 CE credits answer the following three questions in a 300 word blog post or a three minute video posted to your blog:

  1. What did you / what can librarians learn from this book?
  2. How might the focus of this book impact library service?
  3. How might the focus of this book impact library users?

If you would like to plan ahead, next month’s book will be Cyberbooks by Ben Bova. (This one is out of print but there are about 75 used copies available on Amazon right now, so please plan ahead.)

Please contact the Information Services Team if you’d like to check out any of these titles from the Commission. Thanks.

Posted in BookThing | 1 Comment

Registration now open for Big Talk From Small Libraries 2015

Big Talk From Small Libraries is back!

Registration for the 2015 Big Talk From Small Libraries online conference is now open! Details can be found on the registration page.BigTalk2015

Big Talk From Small Libraries 2015 will be held on Friday, February 27, 2015 between 8:45 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. (CT) via the GoToWebinar online meeting service.

The schedule of presentations has not yet been set. We’re in the process of contacting presenters now, and we’ll have a schedule available for you soon.

More info about the online conference can be found on the event website.

Posted in News | Leave a comment