A little while ago, I was involved in a very interesting discussion about utilising newer mobile technologies within libraries which began on Twitter (with @ijclark, @aarontay, @ostephens, and @chriskeene) and sparked experimentation and further discussion in the office.
1. Using your mobile phone as a library card
The first idea was prompted by this blog post from Aaron Tay. It introduces the Cardstar app, which allows users to enter their loyalty/membership card details into their iPhone (they are also developing an Android and Blackberry version) and use the barcode on their phone instead of their cards. I’d seen this in the App Store but hadn’t thought about its potential for library cards, but it seems some libraries have already started using it in this way.
Initially I was a little unsure about this as a colleague raised concerns that there was no way to check the identity of the owner. However, it was then pointed out that many public library cards have no photo ID and even libraries that do have photo ID on the card often have a self issue option so in theory anyone who found a lost card could use it to borrow material. As an aside, I later found out that our self issue machines could have added functionality to ask users for their PIN before allowing access to the account, which would overcome these problems (so long as the PIN was not recorded on the card of course and only given to the cardholder upon proof of identity – at my place of work we email the PIN so that only the true cardholder can get this information).
Anyway – on to the fun part! I decided to test the app to see if it would work with our systems. It took a bit of configuring (many thanks to Ben our systems guru!), but I eventually got my barcode on there and it worked! I tested it on my own PC and the issue counter (CCD barcode scanners), both of which worked fine, but I couldn’t get it to work on the self issue machines. I later discovered that this was because the self issue machines use laser scanners which can struggle to read barcodes from the iPhone as the surface is too reflective.
As Aaron points out – whether or not we encourage this app, we need to be aware of it as our tech savvy users may start using it and we will have to be aware of it and know our institution’s policy (which will likely depend on security measures currently used).
2. Using QR codes in libraries
We got chatting in the office about these sort of new technologies (I have an iPhone, my colleague has an Android phone), and the discussion turned to QR codes (watch this YouTube video for an introduction if you’re not familiar with QR codes),which you may have seen on products recently. Below is a QR code which should direct you to the homepage of the Joeyanne Libraryanne blog, try it out on your mobile (you’ll need a QR reader which are available for most camera phones, just google the model and QR reader):
QR codes are already appearing in some library OPACs. We decided to have a play, and created some QR codes to redirect to particular areas of our website. We tested it on both our phones with success, and then began thinking about possible applications for this. Some things I thought about were (not an extensive list, these are just some very simple ideas):
- Including the QR code to electronic books/journals on the shelf near print books/journals which have an electronic equivalent
- Including QR codes of useful websites/online reports/resources near the print stock (e.g. curriculum, education/health reports)
- Including QR codes of relevant sections to our website at appropriate places in the building (e.g. to get up-to-date instructions for using equipment/facilities, or online bookings if we had them)
- Using QR codes instead of URLs on guides/tipsheets and for advisors to share with users who have enquiries. This could maybe be developed to be included on clothing, like QRazystuff are planning. Many libraries use t-shirts for those helping with enquiries – maybe these could include QR codes to commonly accessed sections on the website?
I really enjoyed finding out more about these technologies. I think it’s really exciting to think about the future of libraries – both with the technologies such as QR codes, RFID and who knows what next; and also about innovative ways to develop our resources and services. There’s so much more to be done and it’s a great time to be part of the profession – I love keeping up-to-date on all the latest ideas from different areas (globally now, thanks to the improved online communication channels) and investigating their potential within MPOW (my place of work). I don’t know if either of these ideas in particular are going to become something that we use within MPOW at the moment, but the potential is there and it was really good to test the feasibility and see if it’s a viable prospect. There are a lot of ways we can definitely improve, and I’ll certainly be mentioning these ideas with other colleagues.
I’d be interested to hear if anyone is currently using either of these ideas or something similar, or if there are other similar uses we hadn’t considered? Please let me know in the comments.