Rural Library Collaborative and State Libraries Launch AI Project

The Collaborative Institute for Rural Communities Librarianship (CIRCL), Gigabit Libraries Network, and 14 state libraries announce the launch of the State Libraries and AI Technologies (SLAAIT) Working Group, 

SLAAIT LogoOver the past year, members of the Collaborative Institute for Rural Communities & Librarianship (CIRCL) have been working to identify and prioritize key issues affecting the rural community and library ecosystem. On February 1, they announced their first major initiative: the launch of the State Libraries and AI Technologies (SLAAIT) Project. Led by Dr. R. David Lankes, The Virginia & Charles Bowden Professor of Librarianship at the University of Texas at Austin, SLAAIT is a joint project of 14 state libraries and the Gigabit Libraries Network (GLN) to understand the opportunities, challenges, and risks associated with AI and the library sector.

“Artificial Intelligence (AI) has already profoundly changed the way people find information, communicate, produce media, and learn about the world. AI will continue to change work; from automation in manufacturing, to how energy is distributed across a smart grid, to the use of generative AI to produce marketing, the workforce of our states will change,” according to the SLAAIT web site.

Following the release of a federal executive order in October, an increasing number of state governments are also proposing or implementing new regulations and guidelines for the use of AI. This is creating a demand for strategic response from the state library agencies. State library agencies participating in SLAAIT include Texas, Georgia, Iowa, New Jersey, Colorado, Washington, Hawaii, Delaware, New York, North Carolina, Arizona, Tennessee, Michigan and Ohio. Participation remains open to interested state library agencies. “It feels like we are at another seminal crossroads in libraries and access to information,” said Jennifer Nelson, New Jersey State Librarian.

The project was introduced at a session of Libraries in Response, the Gigabit Library Network's web series on library responses to not only the COVID-19 crisis but to an ongoing set of crises since. “It’s been nonstop. A veritable cascade of crises: health, social, economic, political, overarching climate, and now AI. All challenging librarians’ abilities to rapidly adapt service models,” said Don Means, GLN Director.

The SLAAIT working group will explore the varied roles state libraries can play in using AI and building capacity among library partners, specifically related workforce development in AI. Over the next six months, the SLAAIT working group intends to develop a detailed report on its research, tailored recommendations for participating libraries, and online workshops for library staff.

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Hallie Rich

Hallie Rich

Hallie Rich is Editor-in-Chief of Library Journal.

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