KCLS explores the artificial intelligence frontier

The library system will look at the feasibility of an AI application for library users.

If asked for a show of hands in tech-savvy King County, many would know what the term “artificial intelligence” means.

But some may not.

Also known as machine learning, artificial intelligence (AI) has been around for decades, yet experts in the technology industry and academia are still working out the kinks as new applications are being rapidly developed. A recent Gallup poll found that 85 percent of Americans are already using consumer products that employ AI elements, such as ride-sharing apps or voice-controlled personal assistants like Siri and Alexa. Which is why King County Library System (KCLS) is exploring AI to ensure that the public is empowered by this new wave of technology that mimics humans’ ability to make decisions or perform tasks.

Through a grant secured by the KCLS Foundation, KCLS will look at the feasibility of an AI application for library users that can interface with voice recognition systems like Alexa and Siri. KCLS will partner with ConverSight.ai to run a pilot program with up to 50,000 KCLS patrons, and will also host focus groups to explore community and staff perspectives on how conversational AI could be used to enhance library services and resources. The grant allows KCLS to continue to explore innovative ways to serve patrons, and increase digital equity and access to library resources.

On a national level, both the American Library Association and the Urban Libraries Council are surfacing AI and digital citizenship initiatives to ensure that libraries are not only at the table, but have a prominent voice in the conversation as AI continues to transform modern technology. In January, I was asked to participate in a working group of library leaders from across the United States and Canada to discuss opportunities for libraries to collaborate in order to get ahead of the potential risks presented by AI and to maximize the technology’s potential for the public good.

Public libraries — as respected thought leaders, trusted sources of reliable information, and champions of free and open access — are well equipped to address not only the benefits of AI but also the challenges, including concerns about privacy of personal data on smart devices. Establishing strategic partnerships with technical experts in the AI field that share the library’s values will enhance the collective impact of this emerging technology as new applications are developed.

KCLS’ reputation for innovative programs and services now extends to the virtual world. We are excited to play a part in what lies ahead.

Lisa Rosenblum is the executive director for the King County Library System.


In consideration of how we voice our opinions in the modern world, we’ve closed comments on our websites. We value the opinions of our readers and we encourage you to keep the conversation going.

Please feel free to share your story tips by emailing editor@redmond-reporter.com.

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website https://www.redmond-reporter.com/submit-letter/. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) We reserve the right to edit letters, but if you keep yours to 300 words or less, we won’t ask you to shorten it.

More in Opinion

Face masks save lives and jobs across Washington

Wearing a mask saves lives and saves jobs. And all across the… Continue reading

Cartoon by Frank Shiers
Editorial: Reopen schools in fall, but do it safely

Don’t bully schools into reopening. Protect our students.

Cartoon by Frank Shiers
Editorial: Stopping COVID is now up to each of us

With a resurgence threatening, we need to take greater responsibility to keep the virus in check.

Doreen Davis, left in mask, waves at parade participants on May 2. Olivia Sullivan/staff photo
Wear your face-hugging, ever-loving mask | Editorial

“Don’t make me come down there.” — New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo,… Continue reading

Back to the wild — a whole new outdoor recreation world | Guest editorial

When enjoying the great outdoors, continue to socially distance and be aware of how else COVID-19 has changed our world.

Earth Month 2020 and COVID-19: Caring for the planet and each other

Here are some ways to minimize your carbon footprint and protect the planet amid the pandemic.

KCLS is stepping up its commitment to patrons

KCLS has expanding its online resources so patrons can continue to learn, build skills, stay entertained and remain mentally and physically active amid the pandemic.

The true meaning of community | Guest editorial

LWTech president Dr. Amy Morrison reflects on how the COVID-19 outbreak has brought the community together.

Deserving respect for being human | Windows and Mirrors

Since the COVID-19 outbreak began, Asians and Asian Americans have been targeted. Here’s what’s been happening on the Eastside.

Thank you grocery store clerks

Recognizing the sacrifices of our unsung essential workforce.

Now is the time to be kind to each other | Windows and Mirrors

As the COVID-19 outbreak continues, it is important for us to be there for others in our communities.

To our elected officials: Be bold, be consistent, be honest, be helpful

By Patrick Grubb, Washington Newspaper Publishers Association Governor Jay Inslee has been… Continue reading