QR Codes at Foley Center Library

QR code

Have you seen these around?

More and more, these special “barcodes” known as QR codes or 2d codes seem to be popping up everywhere! They are internationally standardized (ISO/IEC 18004) "Quick Response" codes that were originally created in 1994 by the Japanese company Denso. At this point they've moved into the public arena, hit the mainstream, and they’re being used mainly for 3 purposes:

  1. to link to WWW resources
  2. to start the device e-mail app and fill in the address line, so people can easily send an e-mail to that address
  3. to carry a limited amount of plain text (and numbers, etc.), or formatted text, as in the case of a “v-card” (digital business cards)

How do they work?

When using a device with the ability to scan this kind of barcode, encoded text is transferred to the device and parsed by an app running on the device. Depending on the code's content, the device should be programmed with an appropriate response. For instance, if the text begins with "http:" then the device would recognize it as a link to a Web page. At that point, depending on the app settings (or those of the device), the scanner app would automatically launch the default browser app and retrieve the corresponding Web page (or give you the option of viewing it, perhaps even with a preview image). If the text begins with "mailto:" then the app would open the device’s default e-mail app for you to send an email message to the address specified in the "mailto" string. Plain text would usually just appear as a message.

Where do I get a QR scanner / reader app?

Certain cell phones have QR code scanning functionality built-in. It's usually accessed through the camera. If you have a newer phone, you should refer to the documentation for exact details. If you have a “smart phone” or other handheld device (like a tablet, iPad, etc.), QR scanner / reader apps are typically available wherever you go to get new apps. Usually they can be found under categories like "utilities" or "applications" (for devices like Android , Blackberry , iPad , etc.).

What is Foley using QR codes for?

Foley Center Library has begun using QR codes to promote resources and services available at the Library. Since Foley wants to promote those services to the greatest cross-section of users, the corresponding URL will also be included whenever possible, and usually in a reduced format (so it’s also quick to type for computer users). You can see QR codes in ads for the Library, like this one appearing in the new Student Handbook:
Student Handbook

They’re also used during various promotions, like the giant QR code poster used during this year’s INFOLINE, to connect patrons to info on services:

Big QR code

and, for in-house surveys to help serve our patrons better: QR for survey

They also appear frequently within items at the Library, like newspapers, magazines, and even in books….

QR code in the Bulletin  QR code in journal

FAQs about QR codes

Why do the URLs encoded in QR codes often use a URL shortening service, like Tinyurl.com?

QR codes can encode only a limited number of text characters, depending on the physical size of the barcode itself. Services like Tinyurl.com (and others) enable a large URL to be "shrunk" because the service acts as a mediator, connecting the short URLs they issue for the longer URLs submitted to them. For instance, the link to the mobile version of Foley's new search interface, PRIMO is far too long to remember < http://gonzprimo.hosted.exlibrisgroup.com:1701/primo_library/libweb/action/search.do?dscnt=1&dstmp=1313519594250&vid=iFOLEY&fromLogin=true > (or type by hand for that matter), so it was shortened to < http://tinyurl.com/primobile > (a mere 28 characters!) and creates an uncluttered QR code that looks like this:

Are there security or safety issues related to the use of QR codes?

For the most part, use of QR codes entails the same risks associated with other Internet addressing conventions, and should be approached with the same caution. Only use QR codes from trusted sources. For added security, choose to preview the URL (or other text) after a scan is performed, rather than allowing the code scanner app to operate automatically as prompted by the QR code. Then you may decide whether to go to that Web site, create that e-mail to send, etc.

Where can I find out more information about QR codes?

For historical and technical information, the creator Web site DENSO may be useful.
Educause has devoted a fact sheet to them in their "7 Things You Should Know About..." series that provides info on emerging learning technologies.
Wikipedia is developing an informative entry on the QR Code.
Many academic libraries are beginning to use QR codes to help better serve their patrons, here are links to some such libraries and the QR code resources (reader/scanners, facts, etc.) they’ve also found:

Where can I get QR scanning function for my phone?

To make sure your phone and any kind of scanning functionality are compatible, it would be best to contact your communications service provider (or go to their Web site and search for QR code or barcode scanner / readers) These URLs link to further links and other info to provide QR code functionality to a variety of mobile device platforms: