Tech tips for libraries: QR codes

Paul Stainthorp
Electronic Resources Librarian
University of Lincoln
Tel: 01522 886193


This is the first in a planned series of short articles on useful technologies for academic libraries.

QR codes (“Quick Response” codes) are two-dimensional, black-and-white, square barcodes that can be used around the library to provide users with links to additional information about resources and services.

These barcodes, popularised in Japan, can store a telephone number, a short piece of text, or—most commonly—a URL (web address). They can be created and printed easily, requiring no special software or equipment.

A code can be recognised and decoded by a ‘smart’ mobile telephone with a built-in camera and web browser (and QR code-reading software installed), simply by pointing the phone’s camera at the code. The phone’s browser will then launch the appropriate web page.

Services that can be used to generate a QR code from a web address include Kaywa ( and Linking You ( Both sites create a QR code in the form of an image file that can be printed or embedded within a library’s website.

QR-code reading software for a range of different ‘smartphone’ models is available from the Mobile Barcodes website ( It’s likely that most students in an academic library will own a phone capable of running QR software.

One possible use for codes in libraries is to provide contextual help: linking, for example, from a QR code printed on a photocopier to a web page containing instructions and copyright advice.

The example QR code printed on this page links to the home page for SCONUL Focus (

Suggested further reading: Walsh, A. (2009) Quick response codes and libraries. Library Hi Tech News [Online], 26 (5/6). pp.7–9. Available from: [Accessed on 1 September 2010]