Michael Hibben | Movers & Shakers 2020–Digital Developers

Michael Hibben led the technology initiative that brought Pepper, a humanoid robot, to Roanoke County, making Roanoke County Public Library (RCPL) the first public library in the United States to recruit an AI robot. He worked with RobotLAB to code Pepper for library use and also added Vector, a smaller robot produced by Anki, to the RCPL team.

Sidsel Bech-Petersen

CURRENT POSITION

Administrative Librarian, Roanoke County Public Library, VA

DEGREE

MLIS, Kent State University, 2004

HONORS

Staff Member of the Year Award, VA Public Library Directors Association; Innovation Award, Urban Libraries Council; Best Large County Achievement Award, VA Association of Counties (all 2019)

FAST FACT

While living in Los Angeles, Hibben was filmed for a librarian-themed episode of the Disney Channel TV show Higglytown Heroes

FOLLOW

@rocopublib; rocolibrary.org

Photo by Gene Smirnov

 

Wonder Man

Michael Hibben led the technology initiative that brought Pepper, a humanoid robot, to Roanoke County, making Roanoke County Public Library (RCPL) the first public library in the United States to recruit an AI robot. He worked with RobotLAB to code Pepper for library use and also added Vector, a smaller robot produced by Anki, to the RCPL team.

Created by Softbank Robotics, Pepper assists with coding classes, hosting and greeting patrons, and elevating STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Mathematics) programming throughout Roanoke County with Python and Linux meetups, Raspberry Pi Jams, Hour of Code, and Girls Who Code, in partnership with groups like Noke Codes and Roanoke Robotics and Makers Club. In the year following Pepper’s premiere in 2018, RCPL hosted 271 technology programs attended by almost 4,000 people, including one especially memorable to Hibben.

"During our 2018 Christmas Tree Lighting event, we featured a meet-and-greet with Pepper," Hibben says. "At times, the line to meet Pepper was longer than the line to meet Santa. One little girl who had met Pepper at previous events waited patiently in line to interact with the robot. When it was her turn, I noticed a tiny handmade gift and card in her hand that she’d created especially for Pepper."

Hibben says for him this moment perfectly illustrated RCPL’s tagline, "We’ll meet you at your wonder."

"Seeing the wonder in our patrons’ eyes when they interact with our robots and other high tech inspires me to keep leaning in, learning, and implementing emerging technologies at the library," he says. 

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