BELDING — For visitors of the Alvah N. Belding Library on Wednesday, Dominic Francisco was a curious sight to behold.
The Belding High School freshman wandered up and down the building’s many corridors, filled with books from end to end, searching diligently from A to Z.
And then, with a sigh of relief, he discovered what he was looking for, but it was no book of any sort — it was a small, flat, black and white square, unrecognizable to the average library visitor.
But Francisco raised his electronic iPad to face the square and. without delay, everything made sense.
A question appeared on his screen, and after a few moments to think and arrive at an answer, he was off again a different section of the library, in search of another square.
Francisco was partaking in the library’s first “QR Code Quest,” an electronic scavenger hunt that uses a matrix barcode known as a Quick Response Code (QR Code).
As Francisco raised his iPad to each QR Code, a question would appear on his screen. Each of the 10 questions acted as a riddle, guiding him throughout the library.
“I wasn’t expecting this to be here when I came in today,” he said. “I think it was a pretty cool activity they thought of.”
Francisco said he is a regular visitor of the library, usually to spend his time studying and reading after school, but on Wednesday, he was pleasantly surprised to find a new activity.
“It wasn’t super easy but it wasn’t the most difficult thing either,” he said. “It was fun, a good experience.”
Carrie Roer, a youth services paraprofessional at the library, came up with the idea in search of an activity for middle and high school students to do during their week of spring break away from school.
“You see QR codes everywhere, from in stores to ArtPrize in Grand Rapids,” she said. “I started doing research online about scavenger hunt ideas, and I just went from there.”
Roer said the idea of using QR codes seemed practical as every student enrolled in the Belding Area Schools district in grades 6 through 12 receives an iPad for the school year.
“After school there are always kids who come here, play on their iPads and hang out,” she said. “I know they are school-issued iPads, so they all have them.”
Roer designed the scavenger hunt to feature 10 QR codes hidden strategically throughout the library. The answer to the question helps guide the student in the direction of the next code in line with the scavenger hunt.
Once a student has completed the quest and filled out a form with all 10 answers to each question, they are entered in a drawing for a prize.
For the library’s first hunt, Roer chose questions that would teach students about the history of the library.
“I wanted there to be a question that a kid will have to answer that takes them to a different spot throughout the library,” she said. “For example, what year was the library built? The student heads to the plaque that shows the date, and they’ve also learned something new about the library.”
Roer said the first scavenger hunt was designed to last for one week, but knowing students will be returning to the library to study and read once school begins again on Monday, she will likely keep the hunt going through the end of April.
Library Director Deb Jones said she was impressed with Roer’s initiative to reach out to children through technology at the library.
“I’m so proud of Carrie for doing this,” she said. “I think it’s hi-tech, it think it’s the most hi-tech endeavor the library has taken on. I was hoping the students, with their iPads, would relate to this type of technology and think that it was fun.”
Though only a small number of students have participated so far, both Jones and Roer are hoping more students will participate once school starts again.
“I love to see young people here using the library, especially with our limited hours,” Jones said. “All of our programs are free, and library cards are free too. We invite everyone to come try our new scavenger hunt and join in on the fun.”
Roer said anyone with an iPad or smartphone can uses the library’s free wireless Internet connection to download the free QR code application and participate in the scavenger hunt.
Along with the scavenger hunt, the library is hosting a used book sale today and Saturday.
Today, the sale, located in the basement of the library, begins at 9 a.m. and will end at 4:30 p.m. The book sale will begin again Saturday and last from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
Jones said a bag of books can be purchased for $3 as the library makes room for future books on its shelves.