New project to explore the use of conversational AI in libraries

Yun Huang
Yun Huang, Associate Professor and Interim BSIS and BSIS+DS Program Director

Assistant Professor Yun Huang has been awarded a three-year, $399,996 Early Career Development grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS grant RE-252329-OLS-22), under the Laura Bush 21st Century Librarian Program, which supports innovative research by untenured, tenure-track faculty.

Her project, "Empowering Libraries with Conversational AI," will explore the potential for using conversational artificial intelligence (AI) in libraries to strengthen engagement between libraries and diverse audiences. Conversational agents (CA) are AI-enabled software technologies designed to interact with users via natural language or text in lieu of direct contact with human beings. According to Huang, CA-enabled services could potentially benefit both libraries and their communities by providing convenient 24/7 service to community members and addressing low-level questions when librarians are not available, collecting and analyzing community input in different languages to help librarians understand emerging needs, and releasing librarians from tedious and time-consuming tasks.

Huang will partner with the Champaign Public Library, Cortland Free Library, Urbana Free Library, Parkland College Learning Commons, and New American Welcome Center to determine how CA software technologies can be used to increase the availability of library services, enhance the workforce development of library staff, and help libraries better serve the diverse needs of local communities.

"This research advances human-AI interaction for social good from two novel perspectives," said Huang. "First, unlike existing research that focuses on providing answers (predefined by librarians) for community members, we will explore when and how librarians can best use AI for their own growth. Second, using AI-based technologies seems promising, however it may be impossible for public libraries that are under-staffed and for librarians that do not have the necessary technical background. This project will investigate ways to democratize conversational AI for librarians."

Huang's research areas include social computing, human-computer interaction, and mobile computing. She received her PhD in information and computer science from the University of California, Irvine.

Updated on
Backto the news archive

Related News

Das receives student membership award from ASIS&T

PhD student Puranjani Das has been selected as a recipient of the Association for Information Science and Technology (ASIS&T) SIG CMR Student Membership Award for the 2024-2025 academic year. She will receive a complimentary one-year membership in both ASIS&T and SIG CMR, a special interest group focused on classification and metadata research.

Puranjani Das

Kim defends dissertation

Doctoral candidate Jenna Kim successfully defended her dissertation, "Evaluating Pre-Trained Language Modeling Approaches for Author Name Disambiguation," on June 11, 2024.

Jenna Kim headshot

Desai defends dissertation

Doctoral candidate Smit Desai successfully defended his dissertation, "Designing Metaphor-fluid Voice User Interfaces," on June 10.

Smit Desai

Student says ‘thank you’ with a helicopter ride

Last month, Michael Ferrer showed appreciation for one of his MSIM instructors in a unique way—by inviting him for an insider’s look at his work as a reservist in the Illinois Army National Guard. For the ILARNG BOSS Lift, which took place on June 18 at Camp Atterbury, Indiana, Ferrer selected Michael Wonderlich, iSchool adjunct lecturer and senior associate director of business intelligence and enterprise architecture for Administrative Information Technology Services (AITS) at the University of Illinois.

Michael Wonderlich and Michael Ferrer hold a U of I flag in front of a military helicopter

Project helps librarians use data storytelling to advocate for public libraries

A toolkit for public librarians can help them use data to communicate the value of their services and justify their funding needs. The Data Storytelling for Librarians Toolkit helps librarians present data in story form using narrative strategies. It was developed by University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign information sciences professors.

Kate McDowell