Publication Details

Rory L.L. Sie and Debra Nolan, Beyond Time and Space: using AI to Solve Client Service Challenges Now and Into the Future, Infinite Possibilities - ALIA Information Online conference, Sydney, 11-15 February 2019.


One of the biggest challenges for libraries today is fulfilling client service requests 24/7. We have skilled staff in the Library during the day and evening, and LiveChat for those not able to visit in person, but what happens after hours? Who is there to help those who work shifts, have children, live on the other side of the planet or just prefer studying at 2am? Artificial intelligence (AI) promises an affordable solution, but will it provide the quality, flexibility and authenticity needed to ensure client satisfaction? Importantly, can the accuracy and veracity of responses be assured? At the University of Wollongong, the Library has teamed up with Academic AI specialists, Engineering and Information Science Faculty and a team of exceptionally gifted students to solve this problem. Using a combination of Agile Scrum and design thinking methodology to ensure client satisfaction and service needs were met, the team commenced building a chatbot designed to converse, provide assistance, and refer clients when needed – in other words: to create, rather than recruit, a new Library staff member. This paper will explore the journey, noting the challenges, breakthroughs and methodologies used to create and evaluate the chatbot.