State Libraries, Artificial Intelligence, and the Workforce: A CIRCL Work Group

Brief Prospectus


This prospectus calls for the creation of a limited term working group of state libraries and relevant stakeholders to explore the varied roles state libraries in the use of AI and in their support of efforts around workforce development in AI. Rather than a one-time event, the working group will be a facilitated process with CIRCL gathering data, building an environmental scan, and interviewing library staff to provide a focused explorations of the topic with participating state librarians.

The goal of the working group is better equipping state libraries to proactively respond to the opportunities and perils in AI. Through this process, state libraries will gain insight, and participant-specific ideas for projects and applications to better position them in growing efforts in AI workforce development, and in their own outreach and support missions.

Participation in the working group is through a one-time $10,000 program support fee. Funds from the program fees will support the work of CIRCL including development of an environmental scan, creation of an “AI Petting Zoo” where state library staff can experiment with AI products, and development of a state-level set of recommendations by CIRCL experts and analysts. The work will take place over 6 months from the full funding of the working group by 10 participants.


Artificial intelligence (AI) has already made a significant impact on the workforce in the last few years, and it has the potential to significantly impact the next generation of workers in both a positive and negative way as AI continues to become more developed. According to the World Economic Forum’s “The Future of Jobs Report 2020”, 85 million jobs globally will be replaced by AI by 2025. The same report also indicates that AI can potentially generate 97 million new roles[1].

This shift in the workforce has been underway for several years as specialized AI systems sought to automate tasks and increase the efficiency of manufacturing. However, with the advent of generative AI-systems that produce human-like texts, images, code, and video the impact of AI is extending beyond the shop floor deep into white collar job functions. Already sectors such as journalism, publishing, and education are forecasting upheavals from the potential of AI generated information.

Librarianship is not immune from impacts of AI in general, and generative AI in particular. Already our collections are adding material generated, in part, by AI systems. The lives of our citizens are daily using AI directed systems – often times unknowingly[2],[3]– when they listen to music, search the web, track their health, and read the news.

Several library organizations have begun this kind of examination including ARL with CNI[4], and Ex Libris in the academic library community. A study of state libraries will have an amplifying effect where lessons learned, and programs begun can impact beyond state library functions to the school, public, and academic libraries they support in addition to governmental libraries of all sorts.

What kind of activities or services can state libraries create to not simply react to tech industry developments, but to proactively engage that community and ensure the wellbeing of our service population? Example might include:

  • Librarian AI Training and Awareness
  • Creating Public Forums on the issues of AI
  • Building an AI Business Development Center
  • Updating Information Literacy Standards to Account for AI
  • Library Supported Cohorts in AI
  • Foster State-Wide Collaborations between Higher-Education, Government, and the business Sector

At the same time that there are opportunities to engage with AI, it is crucial that state libraries understand the perils and possible negative impacts. AI is already driving hiring decisions broadly. AI has had an impact on parole. Corrosive AI has the potential to undermine trust in democratic institutions[5]. What role can state libraries play in setting policy and informing lawmakers on AI impacts?


The outcome of the working group will consist of a detailed report of working group research, conclusions, and overall recommendations. Each participating library will have a chance to provide input from staff and will receive targeted recommendations for their unique situation. CIRCL will provide hybrid forums to discuss the work as well as provide online workshops to the staff of participating libraries.

All the outcomes will also be available widely through Creative Commons licensing after vetted by the working group. Other institutions can be invited to join the work, but only with the consent of the full working group.

What is CIRCL

The Collaborative Institute for Rural Communities & Librarianship (CIRCL) is a network of rural libraries, associations, state agencies, universities, and individuals dedicated to the advancement of rural communities through libraries. It acts as a think tank by, for, and with rural librarians.

CIRCL is structured to bring together network members around key issues to librarianship and rural libraries in particular. This working group will focus on the whole operations of participating state libraries but include special attention to issues relevant to rural libraries such as training, support, and supporting rural community development.

The Working Group Team

The working group consists of contributing partners and CIRCL supported experts to facilitate that ongoing work and provide research support. The team will be led by R. David Lankes, The Virginia & Charles Bowden Professor of Librarianship at the University of Texas at Austin.

More Information

A more complete and in-depth prospectus and information on CIRCL can be found at