LTI’s First Anniversary: Lessons on AI, Regulations, and Open Web Resources

How we've re-learned what libraries and librarianship can mean

This month marks the one-year anniversary of LibTech Insights! 🎉 You might be surprised to learn that when we first conceived of a content vertical focused on the day-to-day interactions between librarians and technology, such mainstay topics as generative AI and ChatGPT were nowhere on the horizon. The world of library technology—and just tech in general—has exploded in the past year. We, like everyone else, had a lot to consider and reconsider. We also had a lot of catching up to do. Library tech is a dynamic field, and we’ve learned just how much energy and variety there is on the ground from experts on UX, digital literacies, and accessibility and from everyday librarians and informational professionals experimenting with new projects and undertakings. We’ve been happy to showcase original works by more than 30 unique contributors (and we always welcome new writers!) on a wide range of topics.

We, LTI‘s editorial team, thought it would be fun and interesting to reflect on how this past year has shaped our initial impressions of the library tech landscape.

Bill Mickey, Choice editorial director

Boy, talk about being in the right place at the right time. This blog launched one year ago and even then—yes, I’ll admit—we didn’t foresee AI becoming the hottest beat in tech. Nevertheless, LTI was not only poised to cover its impact on higher ed, our job was made all the more easy with the outpouring of commentary, best practices, analysis, and test drives from librarians themselves. I’ve been working in the media world for a long time and it’s been a while since a topic has dominated people’s professional interests to the extent that AI has. What has been heartening to see this time is the speed at which the library community has stepped into the gap to get in front—or at least as close to the front as anyone can be—of GenAI in academia. While administrators and faculty were wringing their hands over student use, librarians were already busy devising literacy frameworks. (By the way, we have a whitepaper on this very topic coming out in spring 2024, stay tuned!) And, really, this is what it all comes down to—literacy. And who better to guide us in using AI the right way than a librarian?

Daniel Pfeiffer, LibTech Insights editor

The past year has borne witness to a growing appetite for regulating Big Tech—long treated as untouchable—which one author has enticingly termed a “techlash.” Turns out that the Silicon Valley motto—”Move fast and break things”—is neither sustainable nor ideal. US lawmakers, despite entrenched partisanship, have expressed new interest in establishing regulations, and lawsuits making their ways through the courts will further change the tech landscape. Perhaps these regulations will be too little too late. But on the other hand, perhaps they will help repair the damages of tech to democracy, public trust, and psychological integrity. 

As a profession that asserts values distinct from those of the market, librarians understandably have an uneasy relationship with tech. With any luck, a new body of regulations will answer many of the concerns that librarians have voiced long before the possible paradigm shift of generative AI. What I have loved to see through working with so many librarians in this field is how a values-first approach to tech can work, whether we’re talking about accessibility, practical ethics, or clear-eyed skepticism. Stewarding the values of librarianship is not an easy task, but a deeply worthwhile one. 

Rachel Hendrick, Choice editor and publisher

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about the future of librarianship and I decided to look through a list of personal qualities for a librarian just to reaffirm my career decisions:

  • Love of books? Check.
  • A love of knowledge and learning. Absolutely!
  • A desire to work around people? Sometimes…
  • Personable? Maybe ask my coworkers.
  • Basic affinity for working with large volumes of information? Good computer skills? Yes and yes!

Librarians are known bibliophiles, but our real superpower is our ability to make information accessible. And what a time to be alive! One organization estimates that 328.77 million terabytes of data are created each day. That’s 120 zettabytes of data generated yearly. What is a zettabyte except for an almost incomprehensible amount of information that needs to be described, cataloged, organized, and curated to be of use to anyone? That’s where librarians shine.

Librarians stand between the constant churn of information and, well, maybe not societal collapse, but certainly a loss magnitudes larger than the destruction of the Library of Alexandria. Gary Price is a big advocate for open web curation, and we hope in the next few weeks to bring you a series of short videos that showcase some of his favorite sites. He has a knack for finding sites such as Music Brainz that, like Wikipedia, depend on a user community or the C-SPAN Video Library that host archival material not available anywhere else. Some of his resources are sobering, such as the Climate TRACE site that tracks CO2 emissions. Gary believes, and I agree with him, that librarians are the curators of the information age. I’m looking forward to sharing some of his favorite sites with you.

Sincerely, thank you for reading, sharing, and contributing to LibTech Insights over the past year! The enthusiasm for this little project of ours has been very encouraging. Of course, if you want to stay up-to-date with all things LTI, be sure to subscribe to the newsletter


The LTI editorial team 

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📅 Join us for a free webinar TOMORROW on AI citations and ethics for librarians.

✍️ Interested in contributing to LTI? Send an email to Deb V. at Choice with your topic idea.