AI the library and disruption! The current wave of excitement and anxiety around Artificial Intelligence (AI) is remarkably strong. Artificial intelligence isn’t new it’s been around for years now!
Libraries have been disrupted for centuries and we’ve all been here before, a little scared and unsure but we’ve survived the printing press, the internet, ebooks, apps and so much more and we are still here!
Undoubtedly AI, machine learning, process automation, robotics and ChatGPT aren’t without challenges for us but it’s time to do what we are good at and learn about it all so that we can implement the benefits and share that learning.
AI will increasingly impact on our daily workload and tasks, in knowledge discovery and for chatbots. However I know that AI is yet another disruptive technology that we will undoubtedly embrace with determination. It’s our job isn’t it? Our job to harness its wonderful potential and benefits. We also have to try and anticipate the problems and issues and share with colleagues and our users across our libraries. We need to do what we did with the People’s Network, internet and digital inclusion, which was the democratisation of digital access and skills. Crucial to all of this will be maintaing our high standards of ethics and values.
Let’s be positive and look at the opportunities that this new complex world of technology and global information brings, challenge the status quo, drive change, recharge our leadership and nurture a new breed of librarian. Technology will not relent in its rapid development and the digital and technological inclusion gap will undoubtedly continue to become even wider.
In the future, will we read a library book to get information to inform a decision? Why would we when a machine has already read all of the books and is more skilled at analysis and decision making? Will we spend hours on library computers researching a question when artificial intelligence can do it for us in seconds? We certainly won’t go to a human librarian with an information need when artificial intelligence is able to deliver a better answer in a fraction of the time.
Yes, its a wonderful technology and in the future what the library will do, may not even be about information and books at all but about simply enabling people-to-people experiences, bringing digitally-focused but socially isolated people together in the physical world.
What librarians are well placed to do is to seize ownership of the agenda, enabling citizens to get ‘smarter’, understand the impact of new technologies such as artificial intelligence and realise the impact on their privacy and data ownership.
To achieve this, we must take time to think and plan as a profession, to develop a new and exciting vision of the future library experience and deliver excellence. Let’s engage and captivate our audiences in new ways – in compelling ways – to deliver the experience they now expect, at a time and in a format that suits them.
To thrive in this new world, we must play an active role in shaping our future and redesigning the relevant ‘next’ library – the 21st-century people’s library. We will evolve as technology learning and digital hubs, creating experiential, entrepreneurial, experimental spaces where access to technology enhances opportunities to learn, work and create.
Delivering a metamorphosis always means massive change, bravery and dynamic leadership – not for the faint hearted. Let’s embrace this and seize the exciting opportunities for change and innovation AI presents.
It is once again an incredibly pivotal moment for libraries, and digital technology has opened the doors for us to harness its power. We can inspire and create a vibrant, digital, open and inclusive society that works for everyone, but to do this vision, leadership, innovation and disruption must become part of our DNA. Library staff do not fear disruption they embrace it!
Our future is not some place we are going to, but one we must create. Our public library network deserves its place there, as a strategic asset in the future economy, prosperity, equality and learning of our neighbourhood and cities. It’s time to learn again, to relearn and relearn…
Bold minds Chapter 5 The 21st century People’s Library by Liz McGettigan
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