The QR Codes Action Research Project

Academic libraries underutilize one of their most plentiful resources: the intellectual abilities of undergraduates.Student library employees complete a wide range of tasks but this work doesn’t often engage students’ critical thinking skills — skills that librarians work hard to develop when they see the same students in the “front of the house.”

In January 2010, the service desk on the fourth floor of our library was closed. This floor houses 11 separate collections, making navigation of the space confusing. Suddenly, an area that was supported with 115 student staff hours was supported with 20.

Two years later, three students working on the floor came up with a list of questions they were frequently asked by patrons and decided to try providing this information using QR Codes.

This blog documents the process the supervising librarian and student workers used to evaluate if QR codes would be used by patrons.  The students planned to use clickthroughs and other usage statistics to determine if student patrons would use QR codes and which type of codes were most popular.  Once this data is collected, the students will survey patrons via the web and in-person to determine if the codes are useful.

While some aspects of the project were successful, we did experience some problems.  We hope that you will learn from our mistakes.

This project took approximately 12 student and 7 faculty/staff hours to pull off — if we don’t count the amount of time it took to create the ALA poster and this blog!  We were only able to use our time so efficiently because we capitalized on each person’s skills and experiences.

project_timeStudents did the work on this project once regular floor maintenance was completed and over the intersession and during spring break.  Sickness, holidays, finals,vacations, and inattention by the supervising librarian all lead to delays in the project.  We had a snafu when it came to getting clickthroughs via Google Analytics for some of our pages which seriously effected morale.  Our timeline was a bit too ambitious given the time we could dedicate to this project, but we believe we have a strong foundation for continuing through the summer and upcoming academic year.

We discovered that students will use QR Codes.

We plan to finish deploying the rest of our codes this summer so we can measure their use in the fall.  We will then be able to conduct surveys to determine how useful our codes are in the spring.

Our project did inspire our Access Services Unit to try QR codes in other parts of the library.  We hope that you will also be inspired to let your students use their analytic skills to help improve services in your library and to investigate the efficacy of any changes you make.

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