OPLIN 4Cast #267: The numbers on QR codes

Surely you’ve heard about QR codes by now, and maybe your library is even exploring ways to put them to good use. Public libraries don’t seem to be as advanced in their QR experiments as academic libraries, which is logical when you think about it – the college students that use academic libraries would seem to be the prime demographic for QR codes. So far, however, QR experiments overall, even among college students, have had mixed results as you can see from the recent surveys cited below.

  • Using QR codes in the library at Leeds Metropolitan University [pdf] (SCONUL Focus/John Bottomley)  “The survey results showed that c.75% of those interviewed knew about QR codes, had a phone that could read them and thought that adding them to the floor plan key would provide extra benefit. However, about half said we should also publicise what QR codes were and how to use them before we added them to library materials, so perhaps knowledge about QR codes was not as ubiquitous as it appeared.”
  • QR codes go to college (Archrival/Don Aguirre)  “QR codes do enjoy a high-level of awareness among college students yet only a fraction (21%) could properly scan and activate the code. Why the discrepancy? According to our findings, students simply struggled with the process. Some didn’t know a 3rd party app was needed, many mistakenly assumed it could be activated with their camera, and others just lost interest, saying the activity took too long. This could be why 75% of students said they were ‘Not Likely’ to scan QR codes in the future.”
  • Week 46: QR or not QR (Urbanscale/Adam Greenfield)  “A strong theme that emerged – which we certainly found entirely unsurprising, but which ought to give genuine pause to the cleverer sort of marketers – is that, even where respondents displayed sufficient awareness and understanding of QR codes to make use of them, virtually no one expressed any interest in actually doing so. As one of our respondents put it, ‘I’ve already seen the ad, and now I’m going to spend my data plan on watching your commercial? No thanks.’”
  • QR in the New Year? (Brooklyn Museum/Shelley Bernstein)  “Of the visitors that scanned the code on the entrance tags, an average 3.37% of those users (.059% of total visitors) scanned the codes that were placed on objects. That may seem very low overall, but finding the codes we had placed on 30 objects out of the 3000+ on view, was a bit of a task – I’m honestly surprised the numbers were as high as they were.”

Fail fact:
You may get a chuckle out of some of these 11 dubious uses of QR codes, but there are also some good lessons here. Learn from others’ mistakes.

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