AI in the School Library: Scarier Than "Google It"?
As school librarians, it's important for us to stay up-to-date on the latest developments in technology, including the use of artificial intelligence (AI) as a tool that everyone is jumping to play with and experience.. AI is quickly becoming a part of our daily lives, (I’m looking at you Alexa users!) and it's important for school librarians to understand how it can be used to improve the library experience for students.
If you haven’t been hearing about the “chat” AI tools then its time to get up to speed.
My dad (a part-time retired HS teacher who teaches two senior electives) watched aghast, at a recent family dinner, as the AI app Genie wrote a detailed and coherent essay about a documentary he has his students watch and write about for class. It included specific references to the documentary tone, images and other elements that support the argument that it is subjective. Like many teachers, his response was one of disbelief and then concern about how he will ensure his students are creating authentic work. Rightfully so.
My sister (a small business owner) lauds the use of AI as a game changer for her work and cannot rave about it enough. And, as an aid to her business, says it is the best productivity too she has ever has used. The AI tool has saved her tons of time, just in the few weeks she has been using it. Specifically it has helped her reach out to local business who are related to her work, write social media posts, and connect with podcasters who may want her as a guest.
For many teachers, especially in secondary, this is a scary tool because it makes it so easy for kids to pass off work that is not their own. However I believe that is where we, as librarians have a chance to get ahead of what is coming and help teachers and students use AI tools in a meaningful and appropriate way.
The reality is that most of us have already interacted with some form of AI, an Alexa, automated programs, tech support/chats, etc.
What is blowing up online right now is the use of natural language “chatbots” to ask “the computer” do things, essentially creating commands to not just get the information, but get it, then write the whole paper, with cited sources.
Here is a great video that helps explain it in more detail.
This is slightly terrifying as a librarian who focuses on teaching research, but after playing around with it a bit, I have a few take aways. I definitely don’t have the answers and I am on the fence about a few of these, but this is my honest to goodness reaction.
Additional minor thoughts:
When I played around with the AI writing bot, I thought about all of the things it could potentially help me with as a teacher or librarian. It was fun to see what the program came up with and to evaluate where I can do just as good of a job or where the tool might be able to save me some time.
Things I Asked AI to “Do for me”
Write a lesson plan
Make a list of book recommendations
Write one minute book talks
Write an article called AI in school libraries
Create sample reading passages for classroom use
Check out the results here.
Overall, AI is a rapidly-evolving field that is sure to have a significant impact on libraries and librarians. I think it is worth taking some time to play with one to see what it does and what kind of information is being generated, because it is going to get harder and harder to really differentiate between the humans and the machines doing the writing. By staying informed and being proactive in preparing for these changes, we can ensure that we are well-equipped to serve the needs of our students and communities in the age of AI.
Does this strike a chord with you? I would love to hear what you think.
Hi! I'm Sarah, a school librarian and former middle school English teacher. I empower school librarians to use branding and marketing skills in order to build culture, get visible and advocate for their library.