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AI in Libraries: Less Thinking, More Doing

Let's change the world one library search at a time.

Amazon has been recommending books to people since the 1990's. That was over 20 years ago! Can libraries really be that far behind? Sure, there has been the feature here and there but nothing big scale and nothing all that mind blowing.

There has always been a fear in libraries of retaining any user data, well now that it is 2019 the reward outweighs the risk. Seemingly, every other entertainment and retail outlet provides this option, but not libraries.

Today, the online world can’t watch a movie, buy a laptop, select a dress, or pick a YouTube video without encountering one of the most popular recommendation algorithms today. -Michael Martinez and Lori Cameron

Granted, libraries have never been big employers of programmers, though maybe they should be. There are a lot of opportunities beyond recommending books. How about pushing resources to patrons based on interests? Recommending resources outside our immediate collections? How about a crowd-sourcing platform to share resources and ideas? The exciting thing about working in a library right now is that there is a lot still to be done. It's an industry that has not seen much innovation since the early 20th Century. Sure, our resources are electronic but isn't it really just an electronic version of the card catalog? We can do better.

Some leaders in this movement are MIT, which we've discussed in our post on the Report of the Future of Libraries. The other library leading the way in artificial intelligence and machine learning is the University of Rhode Island. In 2018, they opened a multidisciplinary Artificial Intelligence Lab housed in the library. And, so that's cool. The lab provides access to resources and equipment for anyone to experiment with AI. They integrate with courses, etc. Our question is how is it helping advance AI not in libraries, but for libraries?

If libraries don't start developing these tools for themselves, then someone else will, and let's all agree that libraries have the interest of the people in mind.

Join us at SXSW EDU to hear more about ideas artificial intelligence in libraries.