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AI in Libraries

The letters AI against a circular background of ones and zeros

Digital transformation is critical to make our ambitious and bold vision for the libraries, Knowledge for all, a reality. Our Libraries serve our university community, which embraces around 38,000 students and thousands of academic staff. Embracing digital approaches in the libraries could deliver efficiencies and augment and improve the support the library provides as part of university experience.

The Artificial Intelligence (AI) in Libraries Project is one of the steps we are taking under the Digital Futures theme to achieve our vision.

One of the outcomes of this project is the research report: Looking towards a brighter future: the potentiality of AI and digital transformations to library spaces.

Download the report

The report is available in an accessible PDF:

Looking towards a brighter future: the potentiality of AI and digital transformations to library spaces (PDF)

Pirgova-Morgan, L. (2023). Looking towards a brighter future: the potentiality of AI and digital transformations to library spaces. Digital Futures research report: Artificial Intelligence (AI) in Libraries Project. Leeds: University of Leeds Libraries.

About the report

This report aims to better understand the potential and the practical implications of AI in libraries. It provides a general understanding of the current AI research, theory and practices with specific recommendations for AI applications in the library setting.

This research into the benefits and practical application of AI and other data mining, organisation and analysis technologies is shared as a contribution to the wider library sector, with the aim that others may also use its findings to move the sector forward.

About the project

An increasing amount of research highlights the potential of AI applications in libraries; often this is linked to general AI theory and discussions. Some of this research is not yet translated into practical approaches that can be implemented by libraries, but many approaches already exist and wider knowledge of them would benefit libraries and their users. General applications of AI can also help us to plan long-term strategies for libraries.

The significant opportunities for digital transformation on a practical level in a library setting are found through the use of specific AI technologies to improve user experience, process optimisation, collections description and discoverability. These technologies should be applied where they benefit users and library staff best, in front of and behind the scenes. Similarly, there are many practical applications of specific AI that work in some but not all contexts, so these must be carefully evaluated for use in the specific context of the University of Leeds.

The research methodology included a desk-based assessment, a survey and a series of expert interviews with relevant stakeholders. The desk-based assessment and literature review provided both context and content for the survey questions as well as the methods for assessing and selecting the expert interviewees. The survey was distributed to both staff and students university-wide.

The expert interview stage was conducted with experts from all over the world and covered multiple groups of relevant stakeholders during three separate rounds of interviews. As this is a project that has both general and Leeds-specific applicability, the third round of site-specific expert interviews was conducted with staff from the University of Leeds Libraries. The aim of these interviews was to develop an understanding about library operations and identify priority areas where AI approaches could help us progress further and at scale.

The report concludes with a look ahead with a series of general and also context-specific recommendations.

We would like to thank all the academics, practitioners and organisations who have contributed to this report for their invaluable contributions.