Artificial Intelligence in Libraries

Lauren Hays

Lauren Hays

February 22, 2022

Artificial intelligence is more ubiquitous than we realize. It has many applications in all kinds of libraries.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines artificial Intelligence as a computer system that is able to perform tasks that normally require human intelligence such as visual perception, speech recognition, decision making, and understanding human language. Examples of AI include virtual assistants such as SIRI or Alexa, smart thermostats, facial recognition, and Google maps.

You might be thinking, how is Google maps AI? Google maps gives route guidance, Google maps will tell you how long it will take to get to a location and then you notice the time updates. That update is AI. So Google Maps will change routes and give you updated time based on traffic patterns. Robot vacuums are another example of AI. Many modern robot vacuums scan the size of the room, then identify obstacles like pieces of furniture, and then remember the most efficient path to clean effectively.

In libraries, AI is used in search functionality. Specific examples include DynaMed and Micromedex with Watson and’s connection in EBSCO.  Other ways AI is in libraries are through chatbots, training others on AI capabilities, and through research. I suggest reviewing the recommended resources below, and specifically the IFLA statement.

The IFLA Statement was published in October 2020 and gives ideas for how to use AI well. For libraries they suggest:

  • “Libraries can educate users about AI, and help them thrive in a society which uses AI more extensively.
  • Integrate AI and machine learning technologies into everyday work.
  • Libraries can support high-quality, ethical AI research.”

Then, the Statement explains what governments and library training organizations and associations should do to support libraries. The Statement concludes with a list of what libraries should also be doing.

An important part of what libraries should be doing is being aware of ethical concerns with the use of AI. Privacy, bias, discrimination, and considering mental health impacts of AI are all aspects that need to be considered. Additional resources on the ethics of AI are also below.

While this is just a brief discussion of AI in libraries, I hope it has sparked your curiosity.

Recommended Resources:

Recommended Resources on AI Ethics

Lauren Hays

Lauren Hays

Lauren Hays, PhD, is an Assistant Professor of Instructional Technology at the University of Central Missouri, and a frequent speaker on topics related to libraries and librarianship. Her professional interests include information literacy, educational technology, library and information science education, teacher identity, and academic development. Please read Lauren’s other posts about skills for special librarians. And take a look at Lucidea’s powerful integrated library systems, SydneyEnterprise, and GeniePlus, used daily by innovative special librarians in libraries of all types, sizes and budgets

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