Elements of AI in the Library

May 12, 2020
Catherine Nicole Coleman
Screen shot of Google search results for images + artificial intelligence

Last week 38 people from units across Stanford Libraries completed the six-week Elements of AI course. Of those who responded to the course survey, all said they would recommend it to colleagues. They also unanimously agreed that meeting weekly in groups to discuss each chapter was the most rewarding part of taking the course.

In my previous post from April 1 on the library's Elements of AI working groups, we were in the second week and still adjusting to the many changes of working remotely. By the end of the course, the hourlong discussion sections (one each day) for staff following the one-chapter-per week pace recommended for the Elements of AI course added some welcome regularity to the upheaval. The meetings were also important for community building. They gave us an opportunity to share our thoughts about the material, ask questions of each other, and learn about different perspectives.

Even without the extraordinary circumstances of the pandemic, staff agreed that the material was engaging, well-presented and relevant for libraries. One of the participants pointed out that the library has an important role to play in promoting digital literacy on campus which now requires an understanding of artificial intelligence and machine learning. It was even suggested that the course should be included in onboarding for new staff.

The last exercise in the course asks us to think about how AI will affect our work lives. This is something that had already come up for us in the weekly discussions, usually in the form of ideas for applying the technology within our work. Most everyone involved shared related materials through the library's #elements-of-ai Slack channel. Those linked articles and videos will be combined with a shared reading list for the next cohort begining in June and they will also be contributed to an emerging trans-institutional AI training effort for libraries, archives and museums through AI4LAM.org.