Beyond ChatGPT: Gary Price’s Top AI Tools for Librarians

Try these better-than-ChatGPT tools!

A man looking at two different windows, almost as though he's comparing different forms of ChatGPT

In the year since ChatGPT brought AI mainstream, the technology landscape has exploded with apps and bots that do more than mimic human intelligence and hallucinate electric sheep. Gary Price is a leader in advocating for better AI tools for librarians, researchers, and students (check out his presentations at Charleston and CNI this fall)—so I asked him, what are his top AI tools?

According to Gary, the things to look for when evaluating an AI tool are:

  • the ability to choose the dataset from which the AI pulls its responses
  • the ability to see the provenance of the responses
  • the privacy settings of the tool

He says, “We’re in an exciting time for AI. It feels like ChatGPT came out of nowhere, but not all of it is ready for primetime. Still, it’s an opportunity for librarians to speak up about information literacy and be at the table as these tools develop.”  

📄 Docalysis

Powered by GPT-3.5, Docalysis allows you to chat with a single document (PDF, CSV, TXT) or a whole library. This chatbot provides page numbers and citations so that you can easily verify its answers. The program does not allow other users to access your documents. Need to skim the latest United Nations report on climate change (clocking in at 142 pages)? Docalysis has you covered.

🔎 Perplexity.ai

The Swiss army knife of chatbots, Perplexity does it all: use File Upload to chat with your PDF or text documents, get results from the open web, or limit your dataset using Search Focus. Super power your web search by enhancing your prompt with Copilot, or save and share your conversations to refer back to later with Threads.

As you interact with Perplexity’s chatbot, it begins to capture your preferences and will tailor its answers based on what it knows about you. Creepy? Cool? Probably the future of search. (Perplexity collects user data and stores it as long as your account is active.) Perplexity has its own LLM (pplx-7b-online, pplx-70b-online), but it also allows users to chat with Claude-2, and GPT-4, and Gemini.

Gary says that if you’re going to pay for any AI, this is the one. His tip is to choose your dataset by using “site:” in the prompt. For example, write “site:ala.org give me a history of the ALA.” This will limit your results to ALA.org.


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🏫 scite.ai

The amount of knowledge produced each year in academia is slightly dizzying, so it’s a good thing AI is here to help researchers prioritize. Enter scite.ai—an academic search engine that relies on abstracts and citation statements to complete and give context to your literature review. The chatbot is powered by GPT-3.5 (instead of a graduate assistant) and is an incredibly powerful bibliography tool. Do you need to keep up on the latest research on a particular subject? Just set up a custom dashboard. Want to explore a new subject? Assistant will give you a synopsis of any topic—with citations!

⚔️ ChatBot Arena

Pit your favorite chatbots in a large language model smackdown! Although I get my kicks asking Claude2.1 and GPT-4 counterfactual history questions (Would slavery have ended sooner if the Americans had lost the American Revolution? No two chatbots agree), the real value of ChatBot Arena is seeing how different the results these models produce. Plus, your votes help researchers understand human preference for large language models. None of the models reveals their sources or datasets, and I wouldn’t ask it any personal questions, but there’s nothing wrong with having a little fun, in the name of research.

🧑‍✈️ Copilot for Microsoft 365

Powered by GPT-4 and integrated into Microsoft 365 suite of Office and search tools, Copilot for Microsoft 365 can help you write a first draft of a report or turn your project notes into a PowerPoint presentation. As of November 1, Copilot for Microsoft 365 is available to purchase for Enterprise customers. No news on a date for customer and small-to-medium business (SMB) rollout, but I am really excited to test drive these features.

If you, like me, can’t wait and you want to check out Microsoft’s play in the AI market, you can try Microsoft Copilot for Bing, which is one of the few AI tools that will allow you to chat with a YouTube video. Access Microsoft Copilot in the Microsoft Edge or Google Crome browsers by logging in with your Microsoft account. Don’t have a Microsoft account? Make one for free or use Bard instead, which is Google’s search engine chatbot and uses their LaMDA large language model.

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Now that you know which AI tools to use, don’t forget to bone up on your prompt engineering. ACRL President Elect Leo Lo gives a few tips in a recent webinar: CLEARer Dialogues with AI: Unpacking Prompt Engineering for Librarians. OpenAI (the kids behind ChatGPT) have a lot to say on the subject in their latest Prompt Engineering quick start guide.


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