Students in an online course at Georgia Institute of Technology got a surprise recently when they were told that one of their TAs wasn’t quite human. Jill Watson, so named because she was built on IBM’s Watson analytics system, answered questions convincingly enough that most students were unaware they were interacting with a computer instead of a person.
This exciting story could very easily translate into library service. A small majority of the questions we answer in the library are classified as directional, meaning that we can provide the answer from documented information rather than helping the user interpret or discover information. This means that in 54% of cases, an AI library employee might do a good job providing an answer.
As computers become smarter, information literacy is becoming even more important. Your robot TA might be able to answer questions, but curation, criticism, interpretation, and understanding are essentially human traits and building these skills is the goal of good information literacy.
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