Have you ever read or watched something that was seemingly totally unrelated to your job, but then found a use for it? Over the weekend, I was flipping through stuff on YouTube, and I found a video about grocery shopping in South Korea and by the time it was over, I had an idea for library and circulation outreach.

youtubeQRSee, The South Koreans are a busy people and they loathe going to the grocery store. It’s a necessary task that takes time and that’s time they’d rather spend at home and relaxing. So Tesco came up with a scheme that I think could easily be adapted to public library customers.They set up billboards in train stations and other strategic locations. On these billboards are selections of products that are typical of what people will buy when they go to the store. Next to the colourful picture of the item is a QR Code that the shopper will scan using an app on their smartphone. That item is then deposited into a online basket and then they pick up their items at the store. Things are already paid for and ready to go.

Libraries could easily adapt this to library materials. Perhaps post some small billboards at light rail stations or subways (among other places) with QR Codes next to the covers and quick synapsis of popular items. Using their smartphones, customers scan the code and they’ll be taken to the library website where they can put the item on hold.

For example:

HungerGamesCoverIn the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. The Capitol is harsh and cruel and keeps the districts in line by forcing them all to send one boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen to participate in the annual Hunger Games, a fight to the death on live TV. Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen regards it as a death sentence when she steps forward to take her sister’s place in the HungerGamesGames. But Katniss has been close to dead before – and survival, for her, is second nature. Without really meaning to, she becomes a contender. But if she is to win, she will have to start making choices that weigh survival against humanity and life against love.

Additionally, a QR Code can be linked to econtent. So a customer could scan a QR Code that links them to the library’s digital collections and they could download an ebook to their device right there at the billboard.

Even within the library walls this might be useful. We know what our most requestd items are and we have a very good idea what’s going to be popular even before it hits the shelves. Place QR codes for new and popular items at the new book shelves with a sign that says something like "Don’t see that popular book here? Place a request for it!" This could also be done with the big screen monitors at the libraries as a QR Code app can scan off a screen just as easily as they can off a page.

I saw this video on Friday night and I’m totally going to try setting something up like this at my branch. Nothing huge, just a couple sheets of paper with new and popular stuff. For those without smartphones, I’ll subtitle the QR Codes with a short Goo.gl link. I like those because all someone really has to do is write down the last part of the short link and that’s it.

I don’t expect this to make a significant spike in my circulation, but that’s not what this is about. What this is about is making it easier to get items into the hands of our patrons. We serve a pretty tech savvy crowd and I see smartphones in their hands every day, and if I don’t see them, I hear them. May as well make it so that they can put those phones to work for their library wants and needs too!