Wildcard Wednesdays

Marketing Digital Titles with QR Codes

A few years ago, our college gained access to our consortium’s OverDrive collection, which helped us radically expand our collection. As a community college library, there’s a limit to how many fiction titles we can purchase. Our primary mission is to support the curriculum, but we also value giving our students access to leisure reading. OverDrive allows us to do that while saving money and shelf space. We purchase titles for the collection, but we also benefit from the purchases of other members of the consortium, including several large public library systems.

Although OverDrive was a great addition to our collection, it hadn’t been seeing much use. We marketed the acquisition to faculty but had difficulty reaching students directly. Our solution? QR codes.

QR codes may not be as omnipresent as they were a few years ago, but they’re still useful, especially when your student body is frequently on their phones. Our staff uses Canva to design library signage, and Canva has a built in QR code generator! When working on a project in Canva, navigate to the apps section of the editor side panel. Plug in a URL, and you have a QR code ready to add to a design.

The Canva apps interface, showing QR code as the first popular option.

Where have we been putting those QR codes? Everywhere. From our print shop, we’ve ordered large movie-style posters displayed on a sandwich board outside the library building. Slides featuring literary jokes alongside QR codes to the books being referenced cycle through campus digital screens.

Six book covers decorated with blurbs and QR codes arranged in a display. The display sign reads Cozy up with a new book over break.

We’re also integrating our digital collections into book displays. While older displays were limited by what we had in our physical collection – which in turn limited the themes we could choose – now we bring in digital titles by propping up cardboard-backed cover printouts with QR codes. This lets digital books take up just as much space as physical books. We even did an all-digital book display in December, when students wouldn’t be able to check out print titles over the winter break.

Is it working? We haven’t gotten the latest usage stats for our OverDrive collection yet, but we’ve had several students ask about digital titles, and the campus vice president mentioned (unprompted!) how creative she found our digital slides. 

Overall, this has been a great way to give our digital collections equal visual presence in our library and draw students’ attention toward an underutilized resource. I may be a staunch opponent of QR codes replacing printed menus, but I encourage you to explore using them to leverage access to your digital collections.