The Return of the QR Code

Who would have guessed before the pandemic that QR codes would have become a thing? When they first hit the library world in the late 2000s and early 2010s, many of us found ourselves riding the Gartner hype cycle all too quickly: a quick shot up the peak of inflated expectations and a dizzying descent into the trough of disillusionment as users mostly ignored our cubist communications. As QR codes emerged again during the pandemic as part of a widespread effort to create contactless service experiences, we saw our new signs emblazoned with QR codes suddenly popular. Students would bypass speaking to us at the reference desk as they snapped photos of codes on signs we had there with instructions about how to print or how to look up your user name.

It wasn’t that long ago that some jokester made a website that, if my memory is correct, presented the user with a button that said something like “Should I use a QR code?” and that always yielded the answer of “No.” Now, I can’t imagine making a new sign for the library and not considering what kind of QR code might be useful to add to it. I don’t know when folks will grow out of the QR-code habit, but for now, I am going to consider it a standard part of my design toolkit for signs, flyers, handouts, etc.