With the rapid advancement of artificial intelligence (AI), there is a growing interest in applying this new technology in higher education in general (Adams Becker et al., 2017; Roddy, 2017; Seckel, 2017), and in library service particularly (Enis, 2018a). Amazon Alexa is one of the best-known consumer products employing AI technology. It acts as an intelligent agent that interacts with users’ voice and responds with answers and support. Alexa for Business, a business version of Alexa, was released in November 2017. It enables businesses to develop customized applications and knowledge base within the organizational context and allows users to query directions, manage devices in conference rooms, organize events in their calendar, and report building or equipment problems. Early library adopters have been exploring Alexa for Business for innovative uses. At Iowa State University Library, patrons use Alexa to learn about library collections, spaces, and history, as well as managing devices in the group study rooms. At the Delaware County Public libraries, Alexa allows patrons to keep up with library events, hours of operation, and fun facts. Library vendors also recognize the potentials of Alexa for Business. EBSCO has developed an interface to allow users to access content from its discovery service via Alexa and Google Home; Demco has developed an app for its discovery service that allows patrons to use Alexa to check library hours and services, place holds and renew items, discover and register library events, and reserve meeting rooms (Enis, 2018b).
In this project, we will explore how library services, operations, staff members, and applications interact with Alexa for Business. Possible use cases include:
At reference desks: answer ready reference and directional questions, such as library hours, events, room locations and availability
In bookstacks: guide patrons in locating books in the stacks
In group study rooms: control the devices, such as computers, projectors, and monitors in the rooms
Interaction with library applications: retrieve relevant content from Primo, LibGuides, and library website
Assessment and Anticipated Outcomes:
This study has the potential to inform library professionals and administrators about the promise of AI, specifically Amazon for Business, in offering personalized service, automating library tasks, and enhancing library services. The findings will shed light on the feasibility and potential issues of voice technology in library operations and services. Furthermore, the project will afford us to look into the ethical questions and privacy issues of deploying AI in collecting customer information.
Dr. Win Shih, Director, USC Integrated Library Systems (Co-PI)
Dr. Zofia Lesinska, Head, USC Doheny Memorial Library (Co-PI)
Royd Muraoka, USC Programmer Analyst
Adam Sexton, Manager, USC Doheny Memorial Library
Dr. Melissa Miller, Head, USC Hoose Library of Philosophy
ALA Unit/Subunit: LITA
Meeting Type: Program
Cost: Included with full conference registration.