Utilizing ChatGPT for Librarianship

AI has been transforming work, research, and computer usage for years. Its poster child, ChatGPT, has been shining in its own limelight since its release on November 30, 2022. You have most likely heard of ChatGPT in passing news headlines or social media posts, but you may not know exactly what it is or what it can do. Admittedly, I am a late adopter of it – I have been using it in my personal and professional life only the past few months. Though I am still wary (we all remember the Terminator series and SkyNet…), I use it sparingly and to useful effect.

ChatGPT logo

ChatGPT stands for Chat Generative Pre-Trained Transformer. It is a chatbot developed by OpenAI. This company was established in 2015 as a research organization determined to develop “safe and beneficial AI.” It has recently been in headlines because of the removal and subsequent reinstatement of its CEO, Sam Altman. The program enables users to refine and steer a conversation towards a desired length, format, level of detail, language, etc. This is possible through successive prompts and replies (fancily known as prompt engineering). Example below:

I use ChatGPT for all sorts of queries—from the mundane to the complicated. As an information services librarian, I get all sorts of questions: what’s the best washing machine? What book can I read that is like Fourth Wing? Where is the tallest building in the world? All of these have answers available outside of ChatGPT, but the AI can consolidate answers. To get read-a-likes for Fourth Wing, I would probably check BookList, Novelist, Goodreads, among others (which I still can if I am not satisfied with my GPT results!). I can also further refine results – maybe I do not want a book over 300 pages, or I want one specifically by a female-identifying author. The possibilities are only limited by your imagination and ChatGPT’s cutoff of information in January 2022.

Signing up to use ChatGPT is free and easy. Navigate to https://chat.openai.com/auth/login, and sign up using an email address and password. And you’re in! There are premium features to ChatGPT for $20/month, like a newer model of ChatGPT and access to different tools, the one I’m most familiar with being DALL-E, an image-producing program. For an everyday librarian, though, the free plan works perfectly fine, though it will not have the absolute latest books and information.

Despite any misgivings about the future of AI, ChatGPT, as it exists today, is a useful little tool for everyday library needs.

Do you have any ChatGPT success or horror stories? I’m always all-ears! Drop me a line at: smithc2@einetwork.net

Cameron R.S. Smith | Cooper-Siegel Community Library

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Kris Mielcarek-Sharpe

    Thanks for the info. Cameron. Here’s some more about AI & ChatGPT from today’s Hey Pittsburgh eNewsletter from City Cast Pittsburgh:
    What Pittsburgh’s Talking About
    State Government Will Use AI
    Pennsylvania plans to use artificial intelligence for “creating or editing copies, updating outdated language, and drafting job descriptions.” Shapiro’s administration says this is a “first in the nation” partnership with Open AI, an enterprise version of ChatGPT limited to the Office of Administration. In September, Pennsylvania created a generative AI governing board. [90.5 WESA / Associated Press]
    ➡️ What does it mean to call something “intelligent” anyway? A CMU professor explains! [🎧 City Cast Pittsburgh]
    💻 More AI news: Duolingo laid off about 10% of its contractors. They’ll be using AI to streamline content and translations. [Washington Post]

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