IMLS Funded Institute

30 July 2021 • Claudia Engel, Stanford University

The IDEA Institute on AI, planned and organized by Professors Dania Bilal (UT Knoxville), Soo Young Rieh (UT Austin) and Clara Chu (U of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign) is among the slowly growing number of opportunities for librarians and information professionals to learn about AI and its relevance for the GLAM community.

The one-week professional development program was funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services, which made it possible to offer stipends to a diverse group of 17 fellows recruited from across the US.

The curriculum included a broad range of topics, including AI project design and implementation, AI in information search and discovery, data collection and classification, ethical considerations and guidelines, machine learning for text and conversational AI, as well as hands-on experience with AI tools and Python coding. A core component of the workshop was the proposal and development of a project idea to take back to the participants’ respective home institutions as well as the crafting of a project related entry in the IDEA Fellows blog.

In a conversation with fellow librarians at a pre-pandemic conference, “about what AI was and what AI wasn’t ..[t]here were some presenters that didn’t really understand the field in general nor many of the concepts they were presenting on in their respective projects” reports Trevor Watkins, Teaching and Outreach Librarian at George Mason University Libraries and IDEA Institute fellow. He appreciated “the opportunity to get my feet wet in the ML ecosystem” and says: “I hope that the IDEA Institute on AI continues after the conclusion of the IMLS grant. This has been such a rewarding experience!”

The purpose of the Institute is not only to train current and future library and information professionals but also to help build a collective community of GLAM professionals engaged in AI. To connect with your colleagues from the IDEA institute join the #idea-institute-fellows channel on