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For some University of Colorado students, learning how to use the Norlin Library is one of the most overwhelming experiences of their college career.

Some students find the research databases, information searches and the building itself so confusing they avoid using library references at all costs.

CU junior Marissa Smith attempted to do research at Norlin her freshman year and after hours of searching for relevant material she gave up.

"I just got confused and decided electronic sources were easier," Smith said.

But a new bar code information program started at Norlin in July will help alleviate the frustration of students like Smith who find themselves lost in the library.

The bar code program uses the Microsoft Tag Reader mobile application to scan bar codes located on wall posters throughout Norlin, to send topical information to students' smartphones. The app takes a photo of the bar code and then pulls up a link to the library's Web site with information regarding a specific topic.

The posters include five bar codes, each providing unique information about Norlin's services. Maps of the stacks, instructions for checking out a laptop and suggested studies spots are a few examples of information provided by the bar codes.


"It's a way to get info about using the libraries on the spot without needing to ask or even go to a computer," said Deborah Fink, planning and promotions librarian for Norlin.

Most of the posters are currently located in the Norlin stacks and the research area, though they hope to expand the posters to other locations across campus to give students access to information about the library in the University Memorial Center and the residence halls.

Alison Hicks and Caroline Sinkinson of the library administration started the pilot program after they saw the bar codes used in the Boulder Camera.

"First we thought it would be great to use them to link to the library's calendar events and information sessions," Hicks said. "Then we decided to start the pilot program and see what kind of information students want from the posters."

The program will track students' use of the bar codes, allowing the library to evaluate statistics about which information students are using most frequently and at which poster location.

CU junior Gabriel Kuettel is working in the government publication section of the library this semester and said he thinks the program will be beneficial to students.

Posters with scannable tags that help students use equipment or find resources hang at Norlin Library, while Alex Schultz works in the background on
Posters with scannable tags that help students use equipment or find resources hang at Norlin Library, while Alex Schultz works in the background on Wednesday. ( MARTY CAIVANO )

"It's a confusing place and having a map of specific sections could really help students get around and find what they need," Kuettel said. "I might even download the map of my section. It could really come in handy."

But not all students think the program will be helpful.

CU junior Eric Willuweit said the bar codes will slow students down.

Most students at the library are there for a particular reason and have a lot of work to do and no time to waste, Willuweit said.

"I don't see many students even noticing the posters on the wall or taking the time to download the app and scan the poster to wait for the information to come up on their phone," Willuweit said.

Students said the library has several staff members that can help answer their questions and they'll continue to take advantage of Norlin employees instead of transitioning to the new bar code system.

"It's easier to just ask someone," Smith said.