Skip Navigation
Back to Navigation

AI and Digital Citizenship


The transformative power of Artificial Intelligence (AI) is expanding rapidly with significant implications in nearly all areas of 21st century life including education, employment and civic engagement. ULC is working to empower libraries to become respected thought leaders and essential community resources in the AI revolution, ensuring everyone has the tools to become responsible, successful and safe digital citizens as technology continues to rapidly evolve.

Key Themes of This Initiative

    1. The time for library leadership and action is now in order to get ahead of emerging AI issues and challenges, be part of the conversation around data governance and provide learning opportunities to begin to demystify AI and connect it to daily life.
    2. It is incumbent upon libraries to “get smart” about these complex issues in order to become an essential resource in their communities and a powerful voice in addressing challenges to our democratic values.
    3. Libraries bring significant assets to the AI space, particularly their trusted status in the community, aptitude for building relationships and their core values of open access and information for all.
    4. Urban libraries can have a collective impact on the direction of AI by agreeing on and promoting public policy, processes and community standards to fill the existing vacuums and establish the library as a thought leader, important voice and critical resource on AI.
    5. Libraries must identify ways to uphold equity while maintaining progress, recognizing that different aspects of culture evolve at varying rates.

    Meetings and Milestones

    • 2019 ULC Forum: Preparing to Lead on AI + Digital Citizenship

      This October 16-18, the 2019 ULC Forum: Preparing to Lead on AI + Digital Citizenship will convene our member community in Salt Lake City to engage in expert-led discussions and activities to elevate our shared understanding of the economic and social implications of emerging technologies.

      Learn More
    • ULC Leadership Brief: Libraries Leading AI and Digital Citizenship

      On September 12, 2019, ULC published a new Leadership Brief that provides targeted strategies for North America's public libraries to ensure an equitable and inclusive future in the Age of AI.

      Read the Leadership Brief
    • ULC Webinar: Artificial Intelligence, Algorithmic Literacy and Roles for Libraries

      On February 21, 2019, ULC held a webinar on the role that libraries can play in educating their communities about artificial intelligence, and embracing a leading role on AI to maximize the technology's potential for public good. Presenters included Vickery Bowles (City Librarian, Toronto Public Library) and Michael Ridley (Librarian Emeritus, University of Guelph; PhD student, FIMS, Western University).

      Purchasing the Recording
    • Working Group on Artificial Intelligence and Digital Citizenship

      In January, 2019, ULC convened leaders from 14 public library systems in Washington, D.C., to launch a conversation about artificial intelligence and digital citizenship and explore opportunities and roles for public libraries.

      Read the Press Release

    Glossary of Key Terms

    A critical first strep to driving conversations about securing digital citizenship is defining a shared language about emerging technologies and the rapid cultural and economic shift they are creating. Below is a continually updated glossary of key phrases and words that are essential to understanding the evolution of libraries and communities in the age of AI.


    Rule-based processes for analyzing data or completing tasks. Emerging technologies utilize algorithmic processes to perform complicated functions and calculations.

    Algorithmic literacy

    Understanding of the language, processes, implications and impacts of algorithm-driven technology.

    Artificial intelligence (AI)

    The use of data, sophisticated machines and algorithmic processes to simulate or extend human capacity to perform tasks or make informed decisions.

    Big data

    Highly complex data sets that cutting-edge computer systems are able to parse to provide broad insight about trends and patterns.

    Data science

    A broad field of study and practice that focuses on extracting insight from data using scientific approaches, mathematics, algorithms or computer programs.

    Deep learning

    The ability of computer systems to replicate or exceed human capacity to learn from patterns and examples, using sophisticated algorithmic processing models.

    Digital citizenship

    The full range of experiences, opportunities and responsibilities of individuals engaged in the virtual world. Digital citizens not only have access to, and understanding of, the tools they need to work, learn and live online — they fully embrace their digital footprint as an extension of their identity.

    Digital democracy

    The institution of online systems, processes, access and policies that maximize the ability of all individuals to pursue their personal goals, regardless of their education, race, ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, citizenship, location, age, ability or religion.

    General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)

    Regulation implemented by the European Union in 2018 to increase the individual control, privacy and security of data for citizens of the EU and the European Economic Area (EEA). GDRP also serves to reshape business and regional approaches to data in order to advance protections for individuals across Europe. Learn more >

    Machine learning

    The research and applications of computer systems that are able to perform tasks using pattern recognition and inference to determine solutions, without being given explicit commands.


    A machine that is programmed to perform tasks using pre-determined routines or adaptive machine learning.