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Artificial intelligence (AI) and the library

What is Artificial Intelligence?

Artificial Intelligence (AI) refers to technologies that allow computers to simulate human thought and learning, enabling them to solve problems or perform tasks in ways similar to how people would. As a field in computer science, artificial intelligence has been around since at least the 1950s, and today we see it in products and services we use all the time. Examples include automated recommendations on video and music streaming services or retail web sites, predictive text that saves time by guessing what we'd type next, and digital assistants like Siri or Alexa that understand speech and retrieve information.

In the early 2020s, conversations around AI commonly refer to generative AI: systems that can create new text documents, images, video, or other output in response to prompts. Generative AI has the potential to change the way we work and learn, help solve problems, and enhance creativity. The technologies are developing rapidly, and social and ethical norms around the use of AI are also forming and changing.

This guide will introduce you to artificial intelligence, some of its uses related to library research and scholarly work, and ways to use AI effectively and ethically.

Examples of generative AI tools

You may have used some of these tools already! If not, here are some examples you may want to try out. Most of these operate on a subscription model, but many allow you to experiment for free.

General purpose AI assistants

Often called chatbots, these platforms generate text but can increasingly do other things such as creating code, processing data, looking up information, and integrating with image generators.

Image generators

Video and media


  • Supertools - a large list of AI tools in many categories.

AI tools for research and writing

AI tools exist for all kinds of purposes, including help with academic research and writing. Here are a few examples, please let us know if you have favorites not listed here!

  • Litmaps - Tools for literature reviews. One feature starts with a "seed" article you select, and creates a visualization of related articles based on citations.
  • Elicit - Get summaries of research papers, find related papers, and summarize information from many papers.
  • Explainpaper - Highlight a confusing section of a research paper and get an explanation.
  • ResearchRabbit - Save collections of interesting papers, visualize connections by citations and author collaborations, get alerts of new related papers.
  • Inciteful - As with other tools, identify related papers and influential papers on a topic. Also has a "Literature Connector" tool to find a path through the scholarly literature between two papers in different disciplines.
  • SciSpace - Tools to help with literature surveys, explaining and summarizing articles, and generating citations.
  • Scite - Get summaries of what citing papers say about the papers they are citing. Ask natural-language questions and get results from across the literature.