UIUC Professor Clara M. Chu Receives IMLS Grant to Develop the IDEA Institute on Artificial Intelligence

Clara M. Chu, director of the Mortenson Center for International Library Programs and Mortenson Distinguished Professor at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, along with collaborators from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville and the University of Texas at Austin, have received a Laura Bush 21st Century Librarian Program grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS). The $208,142 grant will fund the IDEA (Innovation, Disruption, Enquiry, Access) Institute on Artificial intelligence (AI).

The IDEA Institute on AI is a one-week intensive, interactive, evidence-based and applications-oriented professional development program, open to library and information professionals. The Institute will create two cohorts of leaders (15 IMLS-funded and 5 self-funded Fellows per year; 40 total) with the knowledge and skills to innovate, apply, and evaluate AI in library and information environments. The IDEA Institute will fill a current gap in library and information science (LIS) education and training on AI and the leadership needed in libraries to engage AI to create more effective operations, smarter search systems, and data analytics to enhance discovery, learning, recommending, and decision-making.

Clara Chu from UIUC is a co-principal investigator on the project, while Dania Bilal from UT Knoxville is principal investigator and Soo Young Rieh from UT Austin is co-principal investigator. Dr. Chu will contribute to the planning and managing of the project. Her role will focus on content development and delivery, assessment, and leading the diversity efforts. Dr. Chu will work with Library colleague Myung-Ja Han, head of Acquisitions & Cataloging Services and a professor at UIUC, who is an advisory board member on the project.  

“Emerging technologies, such as the Internet of things (IoT), have been applied in some libraries, including here at UIUC. The IDEA Institute will give librarians an opportunity to explore the role of AI in improving library processes and designing “smart” solutions in providing effective and user-centered information services,” said Chu. “In addition, I am looking forward to integrating equity, diversity, and inclusion throughout the project—especially in recruitment and exploring the use of AI to create systems that make fairer decisions by tackling biases, instead of perpetuating them.” 

The American Library Association (ALA) is a supporting organization for the project, which will run from September 1, 2020, to August 31, 2022, through its division ”Core: Leadership, Infrastructure, Futures.” After it is completed, the IDEA Institute will continue through the Association for Information Science and Technology (ASIS&T), of which Dr. Chu is president and Bilal and Rieh have served as board members. 

This project was made possible in part by the Institute of Museum and Library Services, IMLS grant number RE-246419-OLS-20. For more information about this grant, visit https://www.imls.gov/grants/awarded/re-246419-ols-20


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