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Artificially intelligent conversational agents in libraries

Artificially intelligent conversational agents in libraries Purpose – Conversational agents are natural language interaction interfaces designed to simulate conversation with a real person. This paper seeks to investigate current development and applications of these systems worldwide, while focusing on their availability in Canadian libraries. It aims to argue that it is both timely and conceivable for Canadian libraries to consider adopting conversational agents to enhance – not replace – face‐to‐face human interaction. Potential users include library web site tour guides, automated virtual reference and readers' advisory librarians, and virtual story‐tellers. To provide background and justification for this argument, the paper seeks to review agents from classic implementations to state‐of‐the‐art prototypes: how they interact with users, produce language, and control conversational behaviors. Design/methodology/approach – The web sites of the 20 largest Canadian libraries were surveyed to assess the extent to which specific language‐related technologies are offered in Canada, including conversational agents. An exemplified taxonomy of four pragmatic purposes that conversational agents currently serve outside libraries – educational, informational, assistive, and socially interactive – is proposed and translated into library settings. Findings – As of early 2010, artificially intelligent conversational systems have been found to be virtually non‐existent in Canadian libraries, while other innovative technologies proliferate (e.g. social media tools). These findings motivate the need for a broader awareness and discussion within the LIS community of these systems' applicability and potential for library purposes. Originality/value – This paper is intended for reflective information professionals who seek a greater understanding of the issues related to adopting conversational agents in libraries, as this topic is scarcely covered in the LIS literature. The pros and cons are discussed, and insights offered into perceptions of intelligence (artificial or not) as well as the fundamentally social nature of human‐computer interaction. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Library Hi Tech Emerald Publishing

Artificially intelligent conversational agents in libraries

Library Hi Tech , Volume 28 (4): 27 – Nov 23, 2010

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Publisher
Emerald Publishing
Copyright
Copyright © 2010 Emerald Group Publishing Limited. All rights reserved.
ISSN
0737-8831
DOI
10.1108/07378831011096196
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

Purpose – Conversational agents are natural language interaction interfaces designed to simulate conversation with a real person. This paper seeks to investigate current development and applications of these systems worldwide, while focusing on their availability in Canadian libraries. It aims to argue that it is both timely and conceivable for Canadian libraries to consider adopting conversational agents to enhance – not replace – face‐to‐face human interaction. Potential users include library web site tour guides, automated virtual reference and readers' advisory librarians, and virtual story‐tellers. To provide background and justification for this argument, the paper seeks to review agents from classic implementations to state‐of‐the‐art prototypes: how they interact with users, produce language, and control conversational behaviors. Design/methodology/approach – The web sites of the 20 largest Canadian libraries were surveyed to assess the extent to which specific language‐related technologies are offered in Canada, including conversational agents. An exemplified taxonomy of four pragmatic purposes that conversational agents currently serve outside libraries – educational, informational, assistive, and socially interactive – is proposed and translated into library settings. Findings – As of early 2010, artificially intelligent conversational systems have been found to be virtually non‐existent in Canadian libraries, while other innovative technologies proliferate (e.g. social media tools). These findings motivate the need for a broader awareness and discussion within the LIS community of these systems' applicability and potential for library purposes. Originality/value – This paper is intended for reflective information professionals who seek a greater understanding of the issues related to adopting conversational agents in libraries, as this topic is scarcely covered in the LIS literature. The pros and cons are discussed, and insights offered into perceptions of intelligence (artificial or not) as well as the fundamentally social nature of human‐computer interaction.

Journal

Library Hi TechEmerald Publishing

Published: Nov 23, 2010

Keywords: Academic libraries; Public libraries; Canada; Intelligent agents; User interfaces; Information retrieval

References