QR Codes

QR Codes

I am really interested in mobile technologies, specifically smartphones and apps, and I think they really open up a whole new realm of possibilities for connection to each other, information and the world.   I was a late adopter of a smartphone (I got my Galaxy SIII last September).  It was my first smartphone and I love it and haven’t looked back!  I am amazed at all the things I can do with it and all the things it can do for me.

Mobile devices have become nearly ubiquitous and are vital parts of daily life for many users for personal and even business uses.    For people with smartphones, there are limitless possibilities of what you can connect to, thanks to an internet connection that brings information right into the palm of your hand.   Users can get information when they want it, where they want it through their phone.    The tool I will look at for this post helps users do just that: QR codes.

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A QR (quick response) code is a type of barcode made up of patterns of squares.  They were created in 1994 by a Japanese corporation and were used to track vehicle parts during manufacturing.   These codes can be embedded with a wide variety of data and information, from letters and numbers, to images, videos, URL’s and more.  QR codes can be scanned by a QR code reader which analyzes the image and links to corresponding digital data.  Users with mobile devices that are equipped with a camera (smartphones, iPods, iPads, etc.) can use their camera as a QR code scanner after downloading a reader app, many of which are freely available.  The applications will use the devices camera to get an image of the QR Code, and then display whatever data is embedded in the code, and this can include opening up a web browser to connect to online content.    It is very easy to do and takes only seconds to connect to the QR code’s content.

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There are many QR Code readers/apps available for free on all of the major smartphones.  With an app, users can scan codes to reveal content.  This is so fun!  Like opening up a treasure chest!  Examples: QR Droid, QR Barcode Scanner, Kaywa Reader, Beetag, etc.

QR codes have been slowly gaining visibility and use in the U.S.  They are most frequently used for business advertising or marketing purposes: to give more information on a product or a company, to direct to a coupon or promotion or to link to a website or other online content, such as video, sound or images.  They are also being used for things like tickets and business cards. More and more companies are using QR codes to engage customers on their mobile devices in a variety of ways.    Since QR codes can link to pretty much anything, they can be very useful.  There are many ways libraries can use them too!

I do not know of anything else that can be so easily generated or scanned and accessed with a mobile device.  QR codes offer a flexibility of content that I don’t think is matched by any other tool.

There are so many ways QR codes can fit into a library environment.  QR codes are valuable because they connect the physical world with the digital one and they provide a link to digital content that could be very appealing to library users.   They can “add multimedia content to hard copy pages” (Grantham, 2012).  This idea can help make library content and services more discoverable and more engaging for mobile users at the points when they could use them.    That is perhaps, “the true beauty of the QR code—it allows a patron to opt-in to a resource at the exact moment the information is needed” (Hampton, Peach, Rawlins, 2012).  It is also an inexpensive and simple way for libraries to connect with their mobile device users and make the library and its’ content more accessible to library users.

Libraries can generate their own QR codes and use them in many ways. There are many websites that offer free or low cost QR code generating programs and some even offer tracking and analytical support.  It is very easy to create a code.  It takes seconds to input a link, picture, text, video, etc. into the website, and then generate a code which you can then copy, save, share or print.   Two examples of free generators are: http://qrcode.kaywa.com and http://delivr.com/qr-code-generator, http://www.qrstuff.com

There are so many ways QR codes can be used in libraries!  Here is a list with some ideas I read about:

  • For promotion: codes can be printed on bookmarks, display signs, flyers or newsletters.
  • Codes on event posters and flyers could be scanned to add an event to the user’s calendar.
  • Codes printed on labels and placed on books themselves could connect users to a variety of related digital content, from book trailers, to author interviews, to reviews, to lists of read-a-likes.
  • Connect to useful websites for further information.
  • Provide contact information.  Users could scan the QR code of the person of their choice and either initiate a call, send an email, or save the information to their contacts.
  • Link to instructions, tutorials (online, video, etc.) from anything from using the databases, to using printers or copy machines.
  • Connect to surveys, voting contests.
  • Link to a site where users could leave comments.
  • Placed on videos and linked to a video trailer.
  • Codes placed with exhibits to connect to more information or multimedia content such as websites, videos, songs, etc.
  • Codes placed in the library stacks, such as in the journal and reference areas to connect to the library’s online databases and digital holdings.
  • They can refer patrons from print resources to electronic versions in e-books, journals or databases.
  • Links to library maps, and even an audio tour of the library.
  • Placing codes on shelves or end caps to link to related subject guides or other online content.
  • Codes could be scanned to connect to library’s reference service (text or email).
  • Codes could be placed around the library to provide access to the library’s online catalog.
  • Codes could be embedded in the catalog, and then scanned to have data such as call numbers sent to and even stored on the user’s device.

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QR codes are such a flexible tool that they can be used in many ways by libraries to enhance mobile services to patrons.  They can be connected to pretty much anything, and they are very cost effective, which makes adopting an emerging technology very feasible for a library with a limited budget.  They are a great way to connect the physical library to the digital world.  Libraries need to have services to reach mobile users, since that is the direction the world is moving, and this is one good way to do that.   QR codes bring the information users need directly into their hands, right when and where they need it.  QR codes can facilitate access to resources and services, can get users to interact with the library, and can be a great way to add to users’ library experience.

Grantham, N. (2012, February 20). 5 Real ways to Use QR Codes in Education. In Fractus Learning. http://www.fractuslearning.com/2012/02/20/qr-codes-in-education/

Hampton, D. , Peach, A. , & Rawlins, B. (2012). Extending library services with qr codes. Reference Librarian, 53(4), 403-414.

Vimeo (slightly compared to YouTube)

I decided to look at Vimeo. It’s not a tool that I have ever used but I have seen several libraries that are using it so I wanted to give it a look. Basically it is a video sharing site that supports larger, higher quality movie files than its competition and as of 2011 it had 65 million visitors a month and 8 million registered users. It’s very similar to YouTube (the competition…sort of…YouTube has a much larger audience) so I wanted to do some research and see what Vimeo was all about.

It would be impossible to look at Vimeo without making some comparisons to YouTube. I found a great article that laid out some important attributes that Vimeo has that YouTube is lacking (according to them) http://mashable.com/2013/05/30/vimeo-over-youtube/ 5 great reasons to use Vimeo over YouTube are the community of professionals, there is less fluff, cleaner layout, no advertisements, password protection (differs from YouTube’s options). There were some mixed reactions on the comments for this article and here is a good one to put the opinions in perspective.

“I use both Vimeo and YouTube — Vimeo to host video demos of music I embed on my Con Spirito Music web site, YouTube to attract attention and drive visits to the site. Vimeo is a much cleaner, brand-customizable option than YouTube, as YouTube allows you to upload a custom thumbnail image for your video only when you have become a YouTube “partner” — and to gain partner status you must allow ads with your videos. If you’re in it for fun, YouTube is fine. If you’re in it for business, Vimeo may be the more professional option” (Todd Marchand, 2013)

I thought this was an interesting point that Vimeo may be the better choice for “professional options”. I signed up for an account, very easy. Just like most tools they have a free version as well as upgraded versions that are available for a fee. Navigating through the site was easy, all of the account options were visible and easy to find. I also liked the layout. I am a fan of YouTube because I can find out about anything, but I do have to admit that the layout on the Vimeo site did look cleaner and more aesthetically pleasing.

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There is a diverse offering of what libraries have done with Vimeo. Here’s an example of a library posting a video accessible from their main Web site showing patrons how to search their catalog. It uses a mascot and is appealing and informative. https://vimeo.com/31912640

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Unfortunately, the Denver Public Library (my social media communication library) only has 9 videos and 7 followers so there is not a lot of exposure on Vimeo. They do have more posted on their YouTube channel and even on YouTube most of their videos have less than a 100 views, with the exception of one with over 23,000 views. It also looks like they update their YouTube channel on a more regular basis. Image

Some of the problems with Vimeo are that they simply do not have the user base that YouTube has acquired, and with their free account you can only upload one HD video a week. So when an organization is looking at their bottom line maybe YouTube seems like the better choice but another positive plug, according to sparkloft.com (2012).

“Vimeo is like Portland, the smaller city with a big town feel, the streets aren’t as cluttered and it’s much easier to find what you are looking for. Your video isn’t as likely to make it to the bright lights of the big city, but you’ll reach an audience of people who appreciate the time and effort you put into making your masterpiece.”  http://sparkloftmedia.com/blog/resources/vimeo-vs-youtube-which-is-right-for-your-online-videos/

That is a pretty good argument, especially for a library. Vimeo is a really good option, especially if they want to make great videos in regards to all aspects of their library services, events, and tutorials for their patrons.

This was a video posted by DPL about a Landscape Architect. It’s great to learn about our local history through our libraries. Very interesting. https://vimeo.com/3292627

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Library for All is an organization that has the goal to build a digital library so that children in developing countries that do not have access to printed books may be able to access books electronically. It’s awesome that they can use this platform to get the word out about their project. http://libraryforall.org/ Many amazing ways to use Vimeo!

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LinkedIn

I have always heard my classmates, mentors, and advisors talk about LinkedIn with encouragement to join. I created an account awhile back ago but never really did anything with it or explore the site until now.

On LinkedIn, one can create an account listing their education and work experience and make professional connections with other LinkedIn users. I signed up for the basic account, which I assume most I am associated with do as well since it is free. There are also business, business plus, and executive accounts for yearly fees. These accounts offer more options for connecting with people, including having more access to the messaging system within LinkedIn and the ability to see who views your profile.

On your profile, there are different background sections to fill out:

– summary of your experience

– work experience

– education

– courses taken

– skills & expertise

There are more sections that can be added to your profile as well, such as volunteer experience and causes you care about. For the skills & expertise section, connections can endorse you for skills & expertise they think you may have.

Through LinkedIn, people can search for jobs or employers can search for people with the experience they want in a new employee. It is also a place for networking, where you can make connections with other professionals in your field. On mine, most of my connections are classmates and mentors. I am constantly getting suggestions from LinkedIn about who I might be interested in connecting with, which can be a useful feature if I felt like doing some networking.

Overall, I was surprised with LinkedIn. Going in I was a bit intimidated since people were telling me it takes a long time to fill everything out and I should make a point to not leave it half-finished. I discovered that filling in the basics wasn’t too bad and didn’t take a lot of time, but I could easily spend a lot of extra time filling in all the extras and refining other parts (like updating my skills and adding causes I care about and improving my summary).

In libraries, I can see LinkedIn as being useful for in the hiring process of new library professionals. I don’t see it as being an efficient tool for connecting with library users. I could think of one way that this could happen – some library users go to libraries to learn about computers and job searching. Librarians could show users LinkedIn and how to use the site. Other than that, I don’t see LinkedIn being particularly useful in libraries for connecting with users.

WordPress

A social media that I have had to start using for class assignments is WordPress (http://wordpress.com/). This blogging platform allows users to post blogs, follow blogs, comment on posts, and keep track of visits to their blogs.

Originally, when I started using WordPress, it was difficult to figure out where links would take you. In the year since then, WordPress has streamlined to become an easier to use website. When a user first logs in, they are presented their feed, or reader:

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Users can easily maintain multiple blogs, choosing which blog to post a particular item. Blogs can be customized to fulfill the user’s needs, with different themes that can be chosen and widgets that can be used by the user. This allows an information professional to create a custom blog that reflects the style of the information organization, such as including the organization’s logo in the design of the blog. Here you can see how I can easily view each of my blogs: 

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When a user clicks new post, they are given the choice of starting a new post with text, photos, videos, quotes, and links. Pages can be customized through the user of a toolbar or switching to the HTML view and changing the HTML. The ability to include images and videos make WordPress an effective way of sharing media with the information community. Users can also tag their posts to make them easier for their viewer to find content relevant to them. This makes it not only easy for the blog user to use but also easy for their viewers.

WordPress provides many resources for its users, with the most useful being the ability to track statistics. The statistics include views any given day, the largest amount of visitors in one day, the total number of visitors, views by country, referrers, top posts or pages, clicks to links on the blog, tags and categories, search engine terms used to locate the blog, top commenters, and total content, followers, and shares. These statistics help users understand what type of content their users are looking for and whom their users are. For a library, this means, knowing how to appeal to library patrons and being able to shape blog content to the needs of the library community. Information organizations can easily utilize WordPress as a means of communicating with community and within the information organization. For a library, a WordPress blog could be used to provide book reviews, information about programs, instructions from classes offered at the library, and hosting a website. An example of a library hosting their website on a WordPress page is the Boulder City Library (http://bclibrary.org/). Information organizations can also use a WordPress blog as a means of internal communication, having employees to communicate about what they are working on and provide feedback to others in the comment section.

Other blogging services offer similar services including Blogger and Livejournal. I have not been able to determine many differences between these blogging services in my explorations. I found WordPress and its app to be more user friendly, but that may be as a result of my previous knowledge of WordPress. My preference for WordPress stems from the easy to use the horizontal menu that show on every page. This menu makes navigation easy on the site.

With easy navigation, features that will assist information organizations reach their community, and the ability to customize their blog, WordPress provides a helpful service for the information profession. 

Formspring… I must be missing something.

So, for this last post I wanted to get as far off the reservation as I could and see if I could find a little gem of a social website out there.  Well, I found one… but It’s more of a dull, gross little rock.  The website is called Formspring.  It is a social Q&A website where anyone can ask a question and anyone can answer it.  All users are anonymous.  

Starting an account is simple, with your standard username, password and e-mail address.  Formspring prompts you to fork over your facebook and google account info so it can access your friends.  After that you take some time to answer some icebreaker questions.  It is not totally clear why you are answering these questions, but I took the time to answer about 25 of them before I got bored and realized that it was an endless stream of impersonal and random questions.

 icebreakers

Well, after that I clicked on the answers page to peruse what people are saying.  Instantly, I was looking at a picture of a female american Indian, I assume it was a model dressed as an Indian, wearing a thong.  This picture was an answer that someone posted to the question, “Why is everyone talking about fat acceptance, curvy vs skinny?”  I really didn’t know how this gentleman was trying to answer the question.  As I continued to scroll I realized that most of the questions on this site were people mentally vomiting online.  This picture below was the screen-grab that had the best questions.  It took me a long time to find one that was appropriate to post.

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There was maybe one question out of ten that was an interesting or a genuine question.  Further perusing revealed such questions as “How do you feel about this? (picture of an anorexic nude model)”, “Okay what even lol”, “Why do you follow me?”, “Did anybody else think skylar from heroes was hot cause I did” etc.  Answers were just as mindless and crazy.  Here is a little taste of my favorite answer:

Troll

I dub this user the “scroll troll”  because he had typed this gibberish for about 10 seconds worth of scrolling.  I was struck by the fact that I was as equally amused by it as I was annoyed.  In the end, I feel that his answer is fair because what it was addressing wasn’t really a question… so why should it be a real answer?

It is a pretty easy site to navigate and use.  Click on questions to answer a question.  Click on answers to peruse what people are saying to questions being asked.  You can follow your friends and see what they are asking and answering.  You can also track your activity and search for friends and questions.  One of the best things about the site is the great variety of privacy settings.  You can lock down your account to only receive answers from people you know or people who share their real information.  I like this.  In researching the site I learned that it has incurred the wrath of the media because it was linked to some cyber bullying.  To be honest, it is the perfect site for someone to go on if they were looking to be a total jerk and not have to face any consequences… but you can do that pretty much everywhere on the internet these days.

So, my final thought is that this site takes all the worst things about other social networking sites and puts them all together.  It is an insipid, vulgar, intellectually numbing site that offers very few positives.  The sad thing is that it could be awesome.  A site that was monitored and moderated could really provide some great answers to some important questions.  There was one person, named SpaceAdmiralDee, who took every question seriously and answered thoughtfully.  She wins the “Admirably fighting a lost cause” award for her valiant efforts.

I would really find it difficult using this in a library setting.  It just isn’t the right atmosphere for academic pursuits or intellectual stimulation.  Actually, if I found one of my employees posting on, or even perusing, this site I would fire them on the spot… Well, not really, but I would seriously doubt their judgement.  It is just not that great of a place to be.  But what do I know… there must be something to it with 25 million users.