iPads, QR and AR - our journey from printed book collections to social place

At a university library in Sweden a project to market the library and its digital materials also helped develop the competencies of the library staff.

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Making digital materials visible

In 2010 we started to talk about how to make our digital materials more visible in the physical library.  For years we had talked about how to improve the library catalogue.  But what if our borrowers just ignore the catalogue and go straight to the shelves?

Preparation - research and training

QR codes were not so well-known in 2010.  Our preparatory work was thorough.  We involved researchers, students and colleagues via different meeting methods to see if we were on the right track - and we were!  We focused on displays, photo frames and QR codes.   We then began a programme of professional development as we and our colleagues were trained in imaging, writing lyrics, the visibility of the screens and to think in different ways.  We involved everyone from acquisition librarians to teaching librarians.

We evaluated our work.  The results told us that both the academic staff and the student body had become much more positive about e-books. 

Mobile academics

Our next obvious step was tablet devices. More students are using them.  The library buys e-books and e-resources without thinking too much about usability and not many librarians or other staff had experience of reading e-books or using tablets.

So we bought iPads for all our units within Uppsala university library and followed up with workshops.  We started 'read an e-book anyway you like' to encourage our colleagues to read e-books. Later we met up and discussed pro and cons. Together we learned a lot and our services and our information desks were enhanced. Students and researchers on various campuses were then invited to an event we called: 'Become mobile academics!'  We gave them practical tips on how to successfully use tablets in research and study using various apps and how to use library resources via tablets.

Augmented Reality - the next step

We have successfully been using QR codes for one and a half years to promote e-resources in the physical library premises.  Our next step will be to make use of augmented reality to further promote and market our buildings, services and materials. The idea is to make our resources visible outside the library premises.  By simply scanning the main building of Uppsala university library, Carolina Rediviva, with your mobile device you will get information on opening hours, chat capabilities, descriptions of our different services, Search in our Discovery tool or watch the Silver bible etc.

Recent statistics show that a large proportion of Swedes now own a smartphone. This means that they are able to use the technology that makes it possible to read our resources on mobile phones. This places new demands on us as librarians.  Librarians' roles are changing all the time. We must reach out to users to ensure our financial position and the University. Our goal is to create an attractive and accessible library that can be accessed by the virtual and the physical world.  With AR we can get both!

Our project shows that we can market our services successfully while simultaneously developing the competencies of our library staff. 


Linda Vidlund and Cecilia Petersson work at Uppsala University Library, Sweden