Robots in the Library: gauging attitudes towards developments in robotics and AI, and the potential implications for library services
This dissertation consists of an in-depth literature review, and the results of original research. The aim was to explore the impacts of automation of human work, with a particular focus on recent advances in robotics and AI and how these may affect library services and library work in future. Key issues explored in the literature review include: reasons why AI and robotics are advancing so quickly, which jobs are more likely to be automated than others, public perceptions of robots and AI,
... robots and AI, existing examples of automation in libraries, and predictions for the future of library work. The original research consisted of a survey of the general population, including library users and workers, and a focus group with library workers only. Key themes explored include: general perceptions and experience of automation in libraries, potential acceptance levels of robots being used in libraries, and the predicted positive and negative outcomes. The findings of the research, supported by the literature, indicate a general consensus that automation is perceived as positive where it releases humans from doing mundane or undesirable work. However, there are also genuine concerns that job losses may occur, and that there will not be enough new jobs to replace them. There is also a recurrent idea that robots and AI cannot, and may never be able to, offer the crucial 'human touch' and empathy that many people see as a necessary feature of many types of work; points that are certainly relevant in relation to libraries and library work. When considering library work more specifically, issues arose around the feasibility of new technologies in a library environment. There is a perception that much of the complex enquiry work done by library workers is not yet automatable, and should arguably remain in human hands.