Washington, DC — The Urban Libraries Council (ULC) and the University at Albany’s Center for Technology in Government (CTG UAlbany) are partnering to examine how libraries can empower communities to better understand Artificial Intelligence and ensure its ethical design and application. This three-year research project, funded through a grant from the Institute for Museum and Library Services, will include surveys and interviews with ULC member libraries, case studies, a comprehensive report and a practitioners’ guide for libraries.
“Being on the front line of new technology is a common position for libraries, and the rapid growth of AI has made this an urgent topic for library leaders,” said Brooks Rainwater, President and CEO of ULC. “We are excited to partner with CTG UAlbany to demonstrate how public libraries can serve as a catalyst that strengthens how AI is understood, used and advanced in our lives.”
CTG UAlbany’s research will address three questions:
- What role may public libraries play in increasing knowledge about AI in the community?
- How may public libraries foster inclusive civic engagement in AI initiatives?
- What are the opportunities, threats, benefits, and challenges of public libraries leading inclusive civic engagement in AI initiatives?
“Although scholars and practitioners prescribe public engagement in AI to better identify potential harms, improve the quality of datasets, and better address community needs, there are no clear strategies to engage communities in AI initiatives nor availability of spaces where this engagement may take place,” said CTG UAlbany Research Director Mila Gascó-Hernandez. “We believe that public libraries, as trusted learning spaces and community partners, can serve a critical role in promoting and advancing inclusive civic engagement when it comes to AI initiatives.”
The research will build on work done by both partners. The initiative follows CTG UAlbany’s previous research on the role of public libraries in improving open governments ecosystems and in developing smart communities. In October 2023, ULC released a leadership brief about how public libraries can prepare for a swift integration of AI across library services, resources and operations. From leveraging prompt engineering skills of staff members to using AI to advance information literacy, ULC recommends that libraries should be preparing for a swift integration of AI across library services, resources and operations.
The Urban Libraries Council is an innovation and impact tank of North America’s leading public library systems. ULC drives cutting-edge research and strategic partnerships to elevate the power of libraries as essential, transformative institutions. More than 170 urban member libraries in the U.S. and Canada rely on ULC to identify significant challenges facing today’s communities and provide new tools and techniques to help libraries achieve stronger outcomes in education, digital equity, workforce and economic development, and race and social equity. Learn more at urbanlibraries.org.