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Snap & Go: Delivering Service into the Community via QR Code Technology

Contra Costa County Library
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Innovation Summary

Directed towards underserved residents, busy commuters, and early adopters of mobile technology, Contra Costa County Library’s Snap & Go supports the use of QR codes to deliver library materials and services to customers with mobile phones. Appealing promotional materials were developed to effectively raise public awareness about Snap & Go.

Problem Statement

With information delivery via mobile technology advancing toward the norm, libraries everywhere are rapidly moving to mobile platforms to offer their services and information to current and future patrons who are on the go. According to the Contra Costa Times, 40% of Contra Costa County’s million plus residents are commuting outside its borders to work. While the Contra Costa County Library has actively and successfully implemented and marketed library services to commuters over the past several years, it faces the challenge of getting materials into the hands of library users who are pressed for time and on the move, especially with budgets tightening and operating hours of community library buildings shrinking.

In seeking ways to provide a deeper reach into the community and provide services offsite, the Contra Costa County Library implemented Snap & Go to offer its services and information to patrons who are on the go and to satisfy the reading and information needs of County residents at times when their local community library is closed or when they cannot make it into a library building. Some of the challenges in delivering the Snap & Go service centered on the unfamiliarity people may have had with QR code technology and the need for patrons to have both web access and a mobile phone. A large part of the Snap & Go campaign included educating patrons and the greater community about QR code technology and the Snap & Go project.


Using QR code technology that was made popular by the manufacturing industry, Contra Costa County Library found both opportunities and solutions for providing service that extends beyond library walls and personal computers. Snap & Go provides library service where it previously did not exist and supports self-directed use of the library.

In July 2010, the Library began a campaign to promote Snap & Go, a new mobile web platform, developed with funds from a Bay Area Library and Information Systems technology grant and designed to support the use of QR codes for Library service delivery out in the community. The campaign targeted Library cardholders with mobile phones by placing QR codes on flyers, posters, books, print, and billboard ads allowing users to instantly access Library resources and services relevant to them in their current location. Through the use of QR codes on promotional and marketing materials, Contra Costa County Library expanded its service access points by linking users directly to context-specific information on the Library’s mobile website. These new access points contributed to the Library meeting its goal of making its services relevant to the community -- where people are and when they need them.

A partnership with two regional transit authorities led to a publicity campaign targeting passengers through posters placed inside buses and in libraries. Promotional ads were developed to effectively raise public awareness about Snap & Go and the Library in Bay Area Rapid Transit stations. The marketing campaign for Snap & Go developed around the use of QR codes to give the Library to downloadable eBooks from the bus, virtual museum passes, text-a-librarian service, library hours and locations, patron account and catalog search functions, information on book titles, including reviews, first chapters, and read-alike information.


As a result of the communication efforts, library service expanded to our mobile patrons. From January through May 2011, the new fleet of hundreds of “digital bookmobiles” via Tri Delta Transit and WestCAT allowed commuters to wirelessly download 1,547 library eBooks and audiobooks directly to their mobile phones. Usage of the Library’s mobile site bumped up 11% during the first month of the campaign and awareness led to a sustained increase in usage of 16%.

As part of the educational campaign to inform patrons and the greater community about QR technology and the Snap & Go project, Virtual Library staff created a subject guide using LibGuides by Springshare. During the first year of the project, the guide received 7,900 views.

The publicity surrounding the Snap & Go Project increased visibility for the Contra Costa County Library and its services both locally and nationally. The use of QR codes as service access points created a buzz in the library community. In addition to the 2012 Cutting Edge Service Award from the American Library Association’s Office for Information Technology Policy, Snap & Go has received attention from professional trade journals such as Library Journal and Computers in Libraries and Contra Costa County Library staff received an Emerald Literati Network 2011 Award for Excellence with the publication of their article, “Snap & Go: a Creative case in point” in Library Hi Tech News. The California State Association of Counties (CSAC) honored Contra Costa County Library with a Merit Award for Snap & Go after receiving nearly 250 entries. An independent panel of judges, with expertise in county programs and challenges, selected the award recipients. Contra Costa County Library staff were recognized for their publicity of Snap & Go with a first-place designation for the California Library Association’s PRexcellence Awards for 2011.