Pathways To Best Practice 3: Helping users within the library – guides and signage


Helping users within the library – using guides and signage to link to mobile content.

State of maturity

Becoming mainstream, particularly QR codes.

Explanation of area

Many libraries are moving more towards a self-service model, particularly in academic libraries which are more frequently offering extended opening hours commonly with security staff only present. In order to continue to support users without staff, libraries are utilising guides and signage around the building to offer help. Innovations in this area include the delivery of helpful information to mobile devices using information within the guides and signage.

Common ways to help users with guides and signage using mobile devices include:

  • Using QR codes to link to more detailed information about a service
  • Using QR codes to signpost users to mobile-friendly videos of how to use equipment
  • Using QR codes to point to electronic resources (e.g. in shelves with print resources which have electronic versions/supplements)
  • Using augmented reality to add extra information to posters or within shelves

Examples of work in area

Library Sector Country Overview of work Links/resources
University of Bath Higher Education UK Experimental work on the use of QR codes around the library QR codes and applications
Gloucestershire College Further and Higher Education UK QR codes on shelves for additional subject material QR codes in the library podcast
University of Bedfordshire Higher Education UK Posters to direct users to mobile versions of resources (via QR codes) Sample in slide 21 of presentation

Lessons learned from work so far

  • When using QR codes, be sure to link to mobile versions of resources and test they work on mobile devices
  • Keep a record of physical locations of QR codes and what each links to (in case needs to be removed or changed later)
  • Use QR codes with tracking capabilities to see how many people are scanning them
  • Investigate ways to raise awareness of the availability and functionality of QR codes
  • Understand what will encourage use of QR codes and augmented reality i.e. what will motivate students to download the readers and start using them? Get to know your users and find out if they are already aware of these technologies or interested in using them.
  • Ensure staff understand how to use QR codes (and augmented reality) and what they are for
  • Integrate a help system into existing structure and provide support to users

Key contacts

Andrew Walsh (University of Huddersfield) –
James Clay (Gloucestershire College) –

Useful links and resources

Trial of QR codes at Brooklyn Museum – blog on the trial of QR codes at the Museum and statistics.
Henry, C.L., Vardeman, K.K. and Syma, C.K. (2012) Reaching out: connecting students to their personal librarian. Reference Services Review, 40 (3), pp.396-407 – Includes details of QR code initiatives tested at Texas Tech University Library (experienced low usage so concluded to stop using QR codes).
Are QR codes fab or fad? Doesn’t matter – from The Library Marketing Toolkit (also includes information on mobile visual search).
QR codes – a trial or a trial? – Overview of QR code testing at Casey Cardinia Library Corporation.
QR codes: What, Why, How & Where – presentation with introduction to QR codes, examples of use (in libraries and further afield), and thoughts on future developments.

Updated: 23 August 2012 by Jo Alcock as part of JISC m-library community support project.

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