Possibilities of Barcodes

At the OLITA workshop Digital Odyssey 2010 – Going Mobile, Sally Wilson from Ryerson University Library and Archives gave a great overview of QR codes and some innovative ways in which they can be used in libraries to provide timely services and information. Some innovative examples include:

  • Using QR codes in the catalogue’s bibliographic records. Students can have the record information sent to their mobile devices.
  • Add QR codes to current periodicals on the shelves. The QR codes will tell students what the other holdings are in the catalogue.
  • Add them to the library staff’s business cards. They will link to the library website and contact information.
  • Add QR codes on the library website that link to the library’s ebooks.

The session also outlined the key benefits and drawbacks of QR codes.


  • Inexpensive.
  • Easy to create and read.
  • No typing required on a mobile device to obtain the information provided by QR codes.


  • Not many people are aware of them or know what they do.
  • Users have to install special software on their mobile devices.
  • The mobile device must have a camera.


After this session, I couldn’t stop thinking about the possibilities of barcodes. I’ve been thinking about what they can do for firms and other organizations, and not just libraries. A recent post in HBR’s The Conversation blog illustrates these possibilities. “How Barcodes and Smartphones Will Rearchitect Information” raves about the barcode because it has the ability to link any physical object/information with its digital information. There are three powerful implications of using barcodes:

  • Proactive, customized service
  • Enhancement of the user experience
  • Efficient secure storage

Organizations using barcodes can definitely transform the service and information experience for their clients/customers.


  1. One question–how can these be used in the research/information gathering function? If the great majority of our information resources today are digitized, what is left in print or other non-digital form that can have QR codes attached to enhanced its value?