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

Before attending the Rewired event, which I was fortunate to get a bursary for, I felt confident that AI would not be replacing library staff, the people, with robots! (I also recall a previous fear that eBooks may jeopardise hardcopy books)  

However, I was not sure what it all meant for the future of libraries in the practical sense of how we would use AI enough, and to our benefit. 

I found the event sessions I attended provided reassurances in different areas of librarianship; the future of using technology in libraries, becoming more familiar with the term ‘machine learning,’ and the effects on digital rights and ethics.  

Bill Thompson (BBC, keynote speaker) quoted “AI is changing the entire structure of the modern world” and this I believe, for librarians, means we need to change too.  

Not just developing changes in using innovative technology but changes to include keeping the library fundamentally an asset. This suggestion was reflected at the event as being more about the people in libraries, collaboration amongst each other, finding foundational partners, challenging suppliers, and understanding UX. 

Picture taken form Bill Thompsons Blog  Libraries Rewired: the AI change – A Stick a Dog and a Box With Something In It (https://astickadogandaboxwithsomethinginit.com/libraries-rewired-the-ai-change/#more-665)
Image taken from Bill Thompson’s blog Libraries Rewired: the AI change – A Stick a Dog and a Box With Something In It

Ideas into practice 

Applying ideas from the event in the workplace for me includes becoming more familiar with our library users. Are students already using AI tools? Are they using for example, ChatGPT? These questions highlight the importance of library staff being ready and prepared to support with the use of AI tools. Are we using these tools ourselves? Are we using them correctly? Maybe some students are not using tools to their full potential…we need to be there as librarians to educate, support and advise, and in some ways try to keep ahead of the game! 

Keeping up with technology! 

Approaching retirement age within the next decade, I have seen many rapid changes in technology. We are now at a point where young children at school and those entering as students into further education are already equipped with the knowledge of AI tools. Although a little daunting, as I am not particularly tech minded, we need more than ever before to keep informed and educate ourselves with AI to enable an easier navigation through the upcoming technological advances. 

What’s next? 

I anticipate there will be further events/conferences, future training opportunities, guidance from organisations such as CILIP and NHS England, and further shared learning amongst libraries to help us become prepared and confident in using AI. At present it feels like we are all experimenting without much direction and vision. 

Other presenters at the event also came across as willing and happy to help us along the way… namely Daniel van Strien from Hugging Face Hugging Face – The AI community building the future. who encourages us to use generative AI for information literacy , and the presenters in the VR Lab Experience who offered interesting, if not a little dizzy, VR demonstrations! 

Sarah Howell using the VR headset with Hugging Face - the AI community building the future.
Sarah Howell testing the VR headset with a staff member of the Hugging Face - The AI community building the future

I will finish with another expression from Bill Thompson, which resonates with me in remembering that the tech cannot do it all without us… “machines that think…this is OK, but they are not self-aware.” 


Sarah Howell


Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust