We have become accustomed to hearing that Artificial Intelligence (AI) is incorporated into systems and services. There are clear benefits to logical assessment and interpretation to help guide the use of IT systems.
While as an individual with friends and family, I might go to Google on my smart phone, as a default mechanism when someone asks a question, in professional circles we have to make several searches of different databases and web sites to ensure that we are covering the sources. In what I would term, professional search, we need a more comprehensive search and accuracy, not a search beset with algorithms inserted for marketing reasons.
The Soutron Library Management System is, for most of our clients, the authoritative source, data vetted and validated by information professionals and can point to available internal resources, increasingly acquired or created in digital format as PDFs. The Search Portal in the Library system provides an easy entry into source materials, either as links directing the patron to content or from a simple search using words and phrases and supported by facet searching to narrow down results to specific records.
External content has often been provided by adding Discovery Services, such as EBSCO EDS, which has an incredible array of indexes that bring bibliographic and published materials into a single search and which integrates Soutron content too, making a single search across published and internal materials. Such is the “current state” of search technology in the organisation. But what about content that is not available to Discovery Services? Content that is published on web sites and data sets that are not formally published like many scholarly articles?
Natural Language Processing (NLP) makes simple ordinary everyday language the mechanism for asking for information. It is now available from Soutron when a new facility is licenced. We combine the existing Search Portal index with the means to index the web landscape where your favored sources are based, to extend search to include web sites and electronic sources, not normally accessible, except by visiting each one in turn. If some of your best information sources are expert opinions that are within blogs from leading thinkers and are published on web sites, they are likely to be more current than any published material which takes months if not years to come into the public domain. Imagine if these could be included in your internal search, as part of your Library Search Portal and using simple English (or German or French or Russian etc), without having to be concerned about syntax or keywords.
Helping to Manage Enquiries
The Enquiry Desk always presented itself at the front of the physical library or information center. Patrons would physically visit, ask their questions and library staff would have the in-depth knowledge from years of experience, both in knowing which index and sources to consult as well as being able to interpret the question, and give the answers. In Covid times the enquiry desk has almost overnight, been usurped and the Library Service needs to develop new ways of working.
There has over the past few years been increasing moves to deliver more self-service functions into the Search Portal. These have been very successful in helping patrons do more for themselves and freeing Library personnel to concentrate on in-depth research needs.
Natural Language Search with Added AI
Now we can provide very intuitive systems that make the Enquiry Desk truly automated using AI and NLP, incorporating external and internal information sources in one search. The by-product of such tools is a wealth of additional information about the need for information. Different data sets can be set up in different Search Portals, so the same technology can be used for client facing demands supporting CRM systems as well as internal information needs serving staff.
Intelligence should be more than artificial. Using AI tools in search helps to triage where the information professional’s skills are best applied.
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