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Author Archive | Marydee Ojala

Robots in the Library

The presence of robots in the library was addressed in four different environments. Cindy Hill talked about the Telepresence robot at the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco. One issue surrounding the robot are security, both in terms of roaming and hacking. Perception of robots as gimmicky was another issue, as was maintenance.  Cindy thought that ownership of the robot should fall under the library but it went to IT that, ironically, will loan out the robot. Interestingly, she did not find cost to be an issue.

Bonnie Roalsen, John Walsh, Rebecca Meehan, at Woburn Public Library, have a robotics literacy program where they teach coding and robotics. They assured the audience that robots can be cute, not scary, and noted that coding has become a lot easier now that it’s done in blocks instead of interminable lines of code.

Jason Griffey talked about strategies and perceptions regarding technologies that take control of a physical activity and put it into the hands of machines. He worries about how we teach people to interact with robots and thinks that job replacement will be an inevitable outcome of increased automation of library jobs.

Dewey is the programmable robot at Palo Alto Public Library. and they will soon add Misty. Dan Lou described the coding events at the library. Dewey has been taught to dance, do pushups, and give high-fives, largely because of requests from children learning to code. For those thinking of buying a robot, she warned attendees to be aware of the platform on which the robot runs (Dewey and Misty are on different platforms) and that robots, like computers, get updated and can become obsolete when a new version appears.



Smart Search: The New Frontier

Greg Notess may be retired from Montana State University Library but he’s not lost his interest in search technology. He reviewed some new directions that search is taking. Overall changes include search engines putting mobile first, discover and push emphasized over search, the devolution of searchbox to question mark , search becoming hard to find (the magnifying glass icon), and sites with no search capabilities, such a Springshare or no “about us” (looking at you,

Search input can now be graphical, as with reverse image searching, or vocal, when you speak your search query. In the future, we may see gestures as controlling search. Machine learning is closely tied to your location, search history, profiled information. Many of the AR and AI technologies Greg showed seem to be more relevant to shopping than libraries, although the Google Maps new functionality that lets you see your route when walking has general interest.


Artificial Intelligence for Libraries

Daniel Lee and Gary Price started off the AI, Robots & Machine Learning track with their version of AI101, defining the basic technologies of AI. The overall goal of AI is for machines being able to replicate human thought processes. Natural Language Processing (NLP) is the ability of machines to read and understand language. Machine learning is all about algorithms and statistical modeling.

They have lots of ideas about the use of AI in libraries, among them self-checkout, which would free up circulation staff to do other, more challenging work. What about self-service that responds to your user’s profile and needs. To build the profile, you could use machine learning to mine previous requests.

Anyone thinking about how to onboard AI teammates?

The Soul of a Library

In the opening keynote speech, Michael Peter Edson, Co-Founder & Associate Director, Museum for the United Nations–UN Live, began by saying he’d changed to title of his talk to Cutting the Gordian Knot, or Jibo’s Goodbye. He  asked:

How do we get difficult work done in society today?

How do we get millions or billions of people working together on global/local goals?

Who are we and what is our future?

From stories he told, we learning that, when an art class teacher told students they would be graded either on the quality of their best pot or the number of pots they produced, quantity won over quality. Another story revealed that reframing a question from where to find culture to who are the creative people in your community led to much better answers.

He showed the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and asked the audience to think of a story in support of one of the goals. (Conference chair Jane Dysart later reminded the audience that IFLA had been instrumental in getting access to information added as part of SDG 16.)

As for cutting the Gordian Knot, Edson recommended finding a direct path to your desired outcomes. Librarians should take more risks and be more assertive. We should recognize that an either/or mentality is a false dichotomy. For example, it’s not physical or digital; it’s a loop, a continuum. His view of global is that it’s a lot of local connected together.

He touched on the dark side of tech and said we should spin the problem space to find our angle. We must act.

And about Jibo? It’s a robot that shows emotion, but the company that makes it is going out of business.