Scanning Library Cards on Smartphones from the Swiss Army Librarian 2

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Patrons also use these apps for their library card numbers, and some libraries aren’t sure how to handle the library-card-on-smartphone situation. It hasn’t really come up in my library, but I know our traditional scanners won’t read barcodes off a smartphone screen. So, I thought I’d do some research to find out what it would take to accommodate these patrons.

The reason it doesn’t work is because traditional barcode scanners are designed to read laser light reflected off a solid surface. Smartphone screens are emitting light, so an entirely different technology is needed.

The scanners that can read barcodes on smartphones are called CCD scanners (what that stands for is less important than a short description or a compare/contrast between CCD and traditional laser scanners).

After learning this, I started looking around at the different models and costs of CCD scanners. I stumbled across a Quora post mentioning a company called FaceCash* whichsells scanners for $30. That’s cheap enough for experimentation, so I contacted Aaron Greenspan (FaceCash founder) and bought one.

And it worked. I plugged it into a computer’s USB port, held it up to an iPhone with a library card displayed on it, and Beep, the scanner read it just like it should. I’m always shocked when tech things work right out of the box. And happily, the scanner also reads** regular barcodes too.

So now, for just $30, my library can accommodate those patrons who make their lives easier*** through mobile technology.

I have started to carry more and more of my cards in my iPhone. Make sure to read the whole post and comments for some good information and interesting discussion about this shift.

2 thoughts on “Scanning Library Cards on Smartphones from the Swiss Army Librarian

  • kim

    Does the scanner have a make/model? That is a great price, but we’re limited as to where we can purchase items. I’ve had Honeywell verify that our many existing Voyager scanners cannot be manipulated in any way to scan from mobile devises, nor have various attempts to alter phone settings worked.

  • Brian Herzog

    @kim: I just checked the scanner, and there is no make or model information on it – just a sticker about how to contact FaceCash. I’m sure other scanners work the same way (in theory, any CCD scanner should), but I’m sure if you contact Aaron Greenspan at FaceCash ( he’ll be able to provide you with the make and model number. I hope this helps.

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