22 Nov 2019

Artificial Intelligence and Libraries - The 2019 Annual LIR Seminar

By DavidKane, LIR Group Chair

On December 6 we are running a special event. The 2019 LIR seminar takes place in the Curtis Auditorium in the CIT School of Music, Cork. It will feature six carefully chosen speakers that, together, will provide you with a rounded view of what artificial intelligence is and how it will impact the library world.

Why do we believe it is so crucial for you to know about artificial intelligence? We think this because artificial intelligence, machine learning, and automation are part of the wave of technological development that is going to profoundly change our society, our economy, and the way we do work.

Now is the right time to hold this event, because we stand at a liminal moment where this technology is becoming pervasive but not yet noticeable. Soon, we will cross that threshold at it will at once become an undeniable part of our daily lives.

What the impact of AI will be like is hard to predict. The best thing we can do is learn about it in a way that relates to what we do in our jobs, in libraries and education.  We have invited Dr Andrew Cox, director of research at the University of Sheffield's Information School.  As the lead of the Digital Societies Research Group at Sheffield, he is interested in what artificial intelligence means for libraries and the broader HE context. His presentation will consider the different roles that libraries might play in applying AI and the knowledge, skills and attitudes that library staff might need to develop.  Andrew's presentation should be of interest to anyone seriously interested in library strategy and development.

Appositely, we follow Andrew's talk with a look at a real example of AI, in Cork Institute of Technology.  Adrian Vaughn and Michael Costello share their experience of deploying an AI-powered virtual library assistant based on IBM's 'Watson' AI.  Michael and Adrian will explain their reasoning for implementing this AI, how it is performing, and the impact on library staff.

Michael Upshall continues the theme of the morning session by comparing AI-powered discovery, which can read and 'understand' scholarly content, with traditional approaches, such as building large-scale classification systems. Michael's presentation will also explore how this kind of technology can enhance the role of the information professional.

We often hear of FAIR data these days, in connection with open science and reusability. The primary way in which FAIR data will be used, and reused, in the future, is through machine learning and AI, which can help researchers make sense of large datasets in a way that the human brain alone could never manage. After lunch, Dr Bernard Butler will cover this topic and will explain where AI and machine learning came from and where they are going. It also outlines some ways in which the world of research, and of knowledge more generally, is undergoing a fundamental change in response to advances in AI and Machine Learning.

Dr Tony Russel-Rose will talk cover A key AI technology, natural language processing (NLP), whose objective is to ‘read’ text and to extract meaning and concepts from it.  Historically, this has been an impossible challenge for computers, due to the ambiguous nature of human language.  AI-powered NLP is a fast-growing field that is defeating these challenges almost as fast as they appear.

The day finishes with Brenda O’Neill presenting a human-centred AI systems architecture that centres around the librarian as curator, valorising their tacit knowledge, augmenting, rather than replacing, the librarian.

This approach is consonant with the philosophy of Mike Cooley, an Irish engineer, and trades union leader, best known for his work on the social effects of technology and human-centred systems. Cooley’s books, papers, correspondence, and other ephemera were donated to the Waterford Institute of Technology Libraries by his family, in 2017.

So far, artificial intelligence has only made a small impact on the library sector, with some niche applications that are now only beginning to take the public stage.

Information and library professionals need to grasp this crucial topic and develop an informed opinion, so they can make the best use of AI and influence its evolution.

Register for the LIR seminar on the 6th of December, and we hope to see you there, in Cork.

Register at: https://lirgroup.heanet.ie/


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