What the heck are they?
Funny you should ask! I just attended a conference called Computers in Libraries 2011 where I learned all about these things. They are called QR codes. QR stands for "Quick Response." That clears it all up, doesn't it?
Okay, the deal with these things is that they are like bar codes on steriods. You know how at stores, when a clerk scans an item and the price automatically pops up on the screen? Well, these QR codes work sort of like that. Basically, they turn your smartphone (or iPad2, if you're really fancy) into a bar-code reader. But here's the coolest part: the bar code doesn't just contain a price and a name! It can contain any information you want it to: a phone number, a Website address, an electronic business card, etc. If you install a QR app (a little piece of software) on your smartphone, you can read these codes in magazines, at stores, or anywhere you see them (like at your LIBRARY) and connect to the digital information in them.
How do I engage with this fascinating technology?
The easiest thing to do is just get started! Download a QR reader (BeeTagg is an easy one to use) and start scanning those funky black and white dotted pictures. Here's a list of all the smartphones that BeeTagg supports.
What's a situation in which I would be likely to use these things?
Well, let's just say you were at the library, and you wanted to make sure you had the library Website bookmarked on your smartphone so that you could renew your books online because you were going to be at the beach for the entire summer (aren't we all so lucky?). In the past, you would have to search for the site online or ask a librarian to tell you the Website and then even (*gasp*) type in the address. Now, you just scan the little code up there at the top of the page and it takes you directly to our mobile Website (www.eolib.org/mobile). You can bookmark it in your browser and you're all done!
Hey, do me a favor and drop me a comment if you enjoyed learning about this stuff. I like to share information, but I really like to know if someone is listening.
-marylyn, EOL IT manager