Social Technology

studentsFrom soda cans to movie posters, QR codes are everywhere.

Just scan the small square image with the camera on your smartphone, tablet, or other device for access to web-based text, maps, videos, or other useful information and tools.

qr code

Let's use the power of QR technology to get students, teachers, administrators, and parents excited about using your school library.

We'll explore seven steps to getting started, then a dozen practical ideas you can try today!

Seven Steps to Getting Started

You don't need to be a technology whiz to use and create QR codes. Start by exploring what already exists, think about applications for your library, then build your own projects.

Step 1 - Use QR codes yourself. Download a QR app on your phone, iPod Touch, tablet, or other mobile device with a camera and web access. Go to Mobile Barcodes to download software for your device.

Visit your public library, bookstore, or grocery store. Look for QR codes on books, toys, and food containers. Open your app, point your camera at the code, and information magically appears on your screen. The content may be a book blurb, discount coupon for a toy, or nutritional information about cereal. QR codes can link to websites containing text, images, videos, audio, maps, or even surveys. They can also be used to download information, send email, or complete other web-based activities.

Step 2 - Walk around your library. Think about your student needs. Do they know how to use the photocopier? If not, place a QR code on the copier for directions. Are they aware that electronic databases might be a good choice for medical information? Place a QR code on the shelf near your health reference books.

qr stuffStep 3 - Make a QR code. Many websites provide utilities for making and downloading QR codes like QR Stuff, Delivr,, or Kaywa . Try one. Revise your library brochure and place a QR code on the front that links to your library's website. Remember that mobile devices sometimes display websites differently than laptops. Check your website to ensure compatibility.

Step 4 - Be creative. QR codes can be placed on bookmarks, book covers, worksheets, bulletin board, and walls. A QR code is like an invitation. Students who might not think about going to your library blog, but they may be lured in by a QR code featured in your book display or taped to the door of the media center.

To draw their attention, use colored QR codes or some of the fancy options that incorporate images. For instance, try Unitag.

Be careful not to distort the QR code image or it won't work. Also, the glare of a book cover or shiny tape can cause problems. When placing the code, be sure it's on a flat surface. It won't work if it's folded or on a curve. Finally, try each code before you use it with others.

Step 5 - Provide an alternative. It's easy to get enthusiastic about using QR codes in your library. However remember that not all your students and teachers have devices that can read QR codes. Use a URL shortener like Google url shortener <> to create a shortened URL that can be printed along with the QR code for people without QR readers. Users can simply type the URL into their laptop or other device to access the content.

Step 6 - Partner with teachers. Many school programs are using iPod touches, iPads, or other devices with cameras and wifi access. Work with your special education teachers on ways that QR codes could be used to access special needs resources. Talk with your physical education and science teachers about using them in outdoor education. Think about ways that your Spanish students could use them to provide Spanish language audio services. For instance, scan the QR code and hear a Spanish translation.

Create a list of all the projects students do in your school. Think about how QR codes would be woven into the assignment. In a concept map, could QR codes link to additional information about each topic? In a diagram, could QR codes be used to define concepts or provide examples? In a timeline project, could students associate QR codes with dates on the timeline? In an infographic project, could QR codes be used to cite sources used?


Step 7 - Make it work! Use what you have. Every student doesn't need a QR reader for a project to be a success. You'll be surprised how many devices you can collect when you consider your own iPhone, a couple iPod touches, an iPad, and the smartphones students are hiding in their pockets. Over three-quarters of American teens have a cell phone and over half of them go online with their phones (PewInternet, 2012). Remember that you can download QR software for laptops too.

A Baker's Dozen QR Code Project Ideas

Begin by using QR codes in your professional work including library marketing and professional development presentations. Then, think of ways to connect students with your library and information sources. Finally, explore ways to involve students in building their own QR code projects. Let's explore a dozen ideas.

1 - Promotional Materials. Bookmarks, fliers, and posters are just a few of the places where you can place QR codes. The codes can link to your library website, program calendar, electronic databases, or other important resources. Weave the QR codes into your marketing campaign.

QR codes might take users to Survey Monkey for a library poll, send you an e-mail message, or enter students in a drawing or contest.

2 - Presentation Materials. When doing professional development activities with teachers, provide a QR code on the presentation handouts to access a transcript of the presentation, PowerPoint document, or supplemental website materials. You can even place QR codes on PowerPoint slides. Users can scan them off the screen.

3 - Tour. From freshman orientation to new student assistance, it's time to revise your school and library tours. QR codes can be placed a map of the slibrary. Or, QR codes can be placed in different areas of the library. Think about how photographs can be used on the web page links to ensure that students have found the location being discussed.

4 - Book Connections. Use QR codes on book covers to provide access to book blurbs, author interviews, and book trailers. Think about color coding the QR codes. For instance, a blue QR code might be used for links to read-alikes displayed on a web page, blog entry, or a catalog search. Blogs work particularly well. They also get your students accustomed to visiting your library blog. Be sure to link to the specific blog entry rather than the entry page. Glogster is an effective tool to sharing because you and your students can easily incorporate text, graphics, audio, and video.

books with codes

spookes5 - Online Reading. From e-book downloads to online reading opportunities, QR codes can be used to link students with online content. Provide access to free e-books, library e-book downloads, and online magazine subscriptions.

For instance, create handouts with links to seasonal poems and short stories such as love stories for Valentine's day, spooky tales for Halloween (on right), and patriotic poems for Veterans day.

6 - Scavenger Hunts. Known as scan-venger hunts by QR fans, think about how you can use QR codes in learning. Consider a science or history mystery. Students could become detectives or take on other roles. They use QR codes found around a science exhibit or placed throughout the library to collect evidence, investigate photographs, and solve a mystery or make a decision.

The QR Treasure Hunt Generator makes creating a treasure hunt easy.

7 - Worksheets. Whether practicing website evaluation or providing subject area content links, QR codes can be placed on any type of paper worksheet or handout. Use links to provide students with videos to kickstart a science worksheet or an NPR current issues program to highlight topic in the news. Use bookmarking services like Delicious to provide links to resources used in an assignment.

Worksheet QR codes could also provide links to online quizzes at Quia or interactive tools from ReadWriteThink..

8 - Q&A Activities. As an alternative to students using teacher-produced worksheets, get students to create their own questions and answers. It's a great way to students to create reading comprehension questions for peers. For instance, a student might write a series of questions on a career from the Bureau of Labor and Statistics website (below). Then, provide a QR code for a website for peers to read and a QR code that links to a document containing the answers. Consider providing students with quality content websites such as government sites to get them started. If you're working with elementary students, consider Scholastic articles or resources from

nursingFor a really easy activity, ask students to incorporate a Wikipedia article into their Q&A activity. Use QRpedia to create a quick wikipedia QR code.

9 - Annotated Bibliography. From dioramas to posters, students often build creative projects to express their content understandings. However, it's important that students provide an overview of their project, background information, and cite their sources. Increasingly, librarians are encouraging teachers to require an annotated bibliography to ensure that students have used authoritative source in development of their creative works. Encourage students to place a QR code in their science exhibit or on their social issues poster that provides a link to their bibliography. Students can use one of the many online word processors to write and share their assignment. For instance, in Google Docs students can choose to "Publish to the web..." from the File menu. This generates a URL that can be shared on a WR code.

10 - Bulletin Boards. Post photographs of the presidents and have students create QR codes to their reports. Reports can be created using free and inexpensive web tools like Wikispaces, Google Sites, Weebly, and Wix.

Post book covers of nonfiction books on a bulletin board. Then, involve students in using content curation websites like and only2clicks to organize links related to their nonfiction topic and sharing their site with a QR code. This is a great way to update nonfiction books with current information. Challenge students to create updates for your dated books on topics like Pluto (right below), cancer research, and endangered animals.

book11 - Maps. QR codes can easily be placed on maps such as travel or cultural information QR codes on a world map. Read books set in your state or province. Ask students to write about how the book reflects the place. QR codes can be placed on the state and linked to information about the book. Use a map of the United States to trace human migration through American history. QR codes could be placed on the Oregon Trail, the Dust Bowl migrations to California, and the Great Migration of African Americans from the rural south to the urban North. Different colored codes could represent different eras in American history. Student QR codes could link to a student-created Google Map with placemarks identifying locations involved with the migration.

12 - Walking Exhibit. Post pieces of artwork around the library. Ask students to create a QR code to go with the exhibit. The links could provide artist information and other images by the artist. You could also play an artwork game. See if students can guess the artist, then check their answer with a QR code. Consider using a tool like Voki for an audio exhibit.

QR Voice is an easy-to-use tool for recording your voice (up to 100 characters) and generating a QR code.

13 - Transmedia Storytelling. Involve students in writing engaging short stories that are revealed through QR codes. A story might begin with a bookmark containing the title of the story and a QR code. Scanning the code would take students to a web page introducing the story along with a clue about the location of the next QR code. Maybe the character is thirsty and heads to the water fountain. Or, the character sits in seat B32 in the auditorium. Of course, all your students will want to place QR codes in bathroom stalls!

Looking for more ways to use QR codes in the library? The Daring Librarian has a great list of ideas on her blog


The possibilities for using QR codes are endless. However, be realistic. Like all technologies, QR codes are likely to be replaced by another equally fun fad in the future. However right now they're hot, so take advantage of their popularity in your library.


Brenner, Joanne (April 27, 2012). Pew Internet: Teens. PewInternet Available:

Developed by Annette Lamb, 1/2013.