A series of reflections from the CILIP Libraries Rewired 2023 event.

Since working in libraries, I have seen a number of technological developments but none have been so divisive as the rise of Artificial Intelligence, since the subject has now become more mainstream and at the forefront of people’s consciousness.

Although it has been in our everyday lives in some form or another for some time, its potential is now being seen as a tool to be harnessed. Since attending a number of Local and National online sessions around this topic, my own interest was heightened when an opportunity to attend ‘Libraries Rewired’ arose. 

Whilst networking, I became aware just how far reaching this subject matter has become for so many in the library profession, from having discussions with a wide range of professional, a variety of differing organisations ranging from the RNIB, British Arts, universities to the NHS. 

The Suppliers Floor gave us an opportunity to being exposed to new innovations and advancements in technology, whilst thinking how the library could practically benefit from a wide range of suppliers.

This gave the chance to not only have a hands-on with particular products but the prospect to have a practical conversation, exchange details and having bothersome questions answered in a quick and professional manner form all that attended. 

What astounded me was the breadth and variety of what was on demonstration, some dedicated to particular areas such as the use of gaming in education, to the use of AI integrated into existing platforms such as ‘Keenious’, a knowledge discovery tool that can be imbedded into word – when a document is being written, the A.I. tool will recommend relevant research on the topic; this gained my attention when I was informed that a large number of universities have integrated this into their own systems but have yet to branch into the NHS.  

Having that insight into what a user has previously experienced and then may expect moving from a university setting in to work, reminded me of how important it is that libraries need to be on the front foot, not only when implementing new products but being aware of the user experience during their time in education and continual professional development. 

Selfishly, I was also keeping my eyes pealed for advancements that could aid the fellow librarian. This came in the form of the product ‘Scholarcy’ – this A.I. is capable of summarising articles to not only shorten the time it would take to read, but doing so in an accessible format whilst highlighting key information. I could see this being useful not only for users but assisting evidence searching, journal clubs and more.  

As with all technology, it comes with caveats. It’s not perfect and nor a silver bullet that will solve all problems, but it can help. Being aware of any potential errors, fictional content or bias will be essential. It has become clear that the librarian will not only need to keep up to breast with this ever-changing subject matter but to educate and aid the library user. 

Throughout the day, there were many keynotes from speakers from a wide range specialties and expertise that touched upon a variety of themes, issues and experiences. This event has given me an insight of the breath, infiltration, influence and improvements that technology has reached in our library environment. There seems to be a consensus that AI is a little worrying to all of us, but having this greater understanding has built my confidence on the possibilities of harnessing its potential within the library environment for both user and staff applications. 

If the event is ever run again, I would highly recommend attending. 


Adam Blackwell

Assistant Librarian I.T. Projects

Surrey and Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust