Although the science of artificial intelligence (AI) has been around for some time now, some will rush to associate the term with robots and complex machines, which is actually not too far from the truth. However, AI takes many forms, some of which you may have seen and encountered without realizing it. These include speech and face recognition, virtual assistants, image analysis, etc.
What Exactly Is “Artificial Intelligence”?
Artificial intelligence (AI) is defined by the European Commission as systems that are able to collect and analyze structured or unstructured data and make decisions based on that information to achieve a defined goal.
Since its main purpose is to make our lives easier, AI has managed to make many of the services we use every day more efficient, quick, and most importantly, effective. Despite the fact that we frequently see AI in the private sector, there is no reason why the public sector shouldn’t experience the many benefits it has to offer.
The recent transition to all-things-remote has played a significant role in the motive for countless businesses and services to follow along. The education sector is no exception to this and more specifically, libraries stand to benefit a lot from AI.
Libraries have slowly begun to adopt a more digital approach to their provision of services, such as computers and internet access on-site, availability of eBooks, e-articles, publications, magazines, etc. Nevertheless, with a large number of students now studying from a distance, such information is easily replaceable with the search engines used from the comfort of their home.
In order to maximize their value to their patrons and their usability, libraries would have to find other ways to engage students even from afar. AI opens the door to a variety of services that can be added to make libraries a more modern and useful service during the pandemic.
In this article, we’ll explore some of the ways libraries can benefit from integrating AI, thus improving their services and fitting the current needs of society.
Libraries vs. Technology
The first contact between libraries and technology consisted of an online database where users would simply log in and search for books and articles. Some may think that not much has changed since then, but the fact is that libraries are constantly pressured to keep up with the ever-changing technologies and expectations of society. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be able to satisfy the modern student’s needs or actually justify the large public funds they require.
Besides the latest technological advances, we now have other factors to consider, namely, social distancing and working remotely. These, in turn, will only further pressure libraries to optimize their services for people who are not able to visit the actual buildings.
How AI Can Benefit Libraries
1. Digital Help & Support
Finding value in the services of libraries nowadays can largely depend on offering quality digital customer experience support. By integrating an effective customer service system, they are more likely to be preferred over rivals such as search engines.
There are a few ways to do that, one of them being the use of a cloud-based contact center as a service. This will enable easy and direct communication between the library and patrons, through their preferred customer service channels such as email, live chat, social media, etc. Considering the variety of ways one can get in touch with any service, it is likely that libraries will encounter queries from all possible channels. Having access to a tool that combines all communication channels can seem useful in managing all incoming requests without becoming overwhelmed.
In order to distribute the queries to the appropriate department, the use of an inbound call center software can be applied. This cloud-based system is also able to collect data from each query through the use of an IVR (Interactive Voice Response) System. This is then transferred to the relevant agent, ultimately saving time for both parties.
Both systems integrate factors such as social listening, data collection, and omnichannel optimization that are bound to drive libraries towards continuous improvement. What’s more, students will be given the choice of continuing to use their services from a distance. Maintaining this relationship even remotely will be essential for the future of libraries and their ability to provide wholesome and quality services to patrons.
2. More Services & Tools Equals Bigger Value
By offering additional AI tools that enhance the user experience, libraries will be able to increase their value and satisfy more of their patron’s needs. This, in line with being up to date with the latest technological trends, contributes to their usefulness as a public service and a closer relationship with their users.
It’s no secret that nowadays conferences, meetings, and even events have moved from taking place inside four walls to being completely online. Naturally, the same thing has happened with group projects and team meetings of students. Besides study spaces and sources of information, libraries provided students with a common location they frequently visited that made it easy to arrange meetings, as a go-to place for them to work on projects together. With that gone due to the recent pandemic and the need for students to isolate, both the social and educational benefits of these meetings are at stake.
This problem begs for a solution and an upgrade of the libraries’ meeting rooms and booths that were used until not so long ago. Thankfully, technological advances have brought a variety of video conferencing hosting tools that may even make group meetings easier than before.
Academic staff also spend a large part of their time in contact with their peers and students due to lectures, presentations, meetings, etc, making such tools an essential addition to any academic software.
Many still use writing as a regular form of communication, with emails being the more professional approach, and texting offering a real-time and quicker way to reach someone. For this reason, chat tools remain in demand as they offer an escape from getting lost in lengthy email threads and a quick solution to the decision-making process among teams or individuals.
Knowing the familiarity today’s generation has with chat tools, it is safe to assume that integrating them in your library’s website will likely increase the time spent on the platform and eventually the likelihood of further exploring the rest of your services.
3. Safety for Your Staff & Patrons
If you decide to include such services on your platform, it is important to make it safe to use as privacy becomes an even bigger issue. As part of the risk management considerations for your project, it is absolutely necessary to take cybersecurity into account.
In a world of digitalization, this contribution of AI is widely used among cloud computing companies and is a must for any online service. Dealing with a plethora of important information, publications, student/patrons databases, etc, will often be grounds for a high percentage of cyberattacks and theft attempts. Specifically, by integrating SDN (Software Defined Networking) for example, libraries are able to protect their data as well as manage it more effectively.
The Future of Libraries
Information is now hugely available and accessible, which has led to the change of librarian services as we knew them. Now more than ever, they are pressured to rise up to the expectations of society and most importantly convince them libraries can still be perceived as useful and a necessity for the future of education and access to exclusive information. This can be done by coming up with new, advanced services that satisfy the modern student.
What’s more, libraries have become one of the few means for the public sector to digitalize. With the huge expansion of artificial intelligence in the private sector, society is developing and adapting to a digitalized world and way of living in an extremely rapid way.
On the other hand, less advantaged groups risk being left behind as a result of the limited access to the internet and therefore a lack of digital literacy. As libraries remain a public service, they can help spread equality in opportunities for not only digital know-how but also learning new skills and eventually improving the lives of students, regardless of their background.
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