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It was such a privilege to have been invited to participate as a fellow in the 2022 IMLS IDEA Institute on AI. Learning alongside researchers, practitioners, and scholars working in library and information science was an unparalleled opportunity to consider the impacts of AI on library workflows at many levels. Broadly speaking, adoption of AI in libraries demands macro-scale thinking coupled with laser precision; an overwhelmingly vast landscape of pitfalls and rabbit holes awaits the early adopter. Though several examples are promising, and so-called low-hanging fruit appear to be within reach, it’s going to take a concerted effort from participants at many levels to ensure that AI adoption happens in a sustainable, inclusive, and equitable manner.

During the week of July 10th-15th, fellows participated in 6 days of lectures, discussion, practical exercises, ideation, project planning, and talks by leaders in the field of Library AI. Though still in its earliest phases of adoption, artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies both promise and threaten to accelerate the pace of change in an already tumultuous field. There is little question that machines can help users in information discovery, translation, and knowledge production workflows. This institute has helped to provide, at least in my case, some clarity that yes: libraries can continue to lead in the age of transformation in which we find ourselves. Our most trusted community institutions will not lurch forward at the hint of unfathomably disruptive technology; nor will they stand still, as is evidenced by the leadership, passion, skill, and potential demonstrated by the IMLS IDEA Institute. The future may not be clear, but there is the faintest glimmer of light suggesting that this tunnel may have an end. It is characteristic of libraries to proceed with caution, as the tunnel may yet prove to resemble a hallway of mirrors.

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Post Author: Thomas (T.J.) Ferrill