Custodians & Midwives: The Library of the Future was produced as part of a research collaboration between ANU’s School of Cybernetics and the National Library of Australia. The report provides research and analysis on artificial intelligence and emerging technologies at the National Library of Australia, using a speculative fiction lens to imagine several future scenarios in which the NLA can shape participation and engagement with archives and collections. My contribution here was predominantly on machine actionable collections, drawing from my technical expertise and work in university enterprise IT systems.

Machine-Actionable Collections (MAC) refer to the processes, standards, and infrastructure required for digital collections to be made available, as structured data, to other computing systems that can read and act upon them. MAC orient libraries toward creating large, open, machine-readable datasets for use by researchers. Moreover, these systems provide the necessary data to fuel AI-enabled systems. MAC facilitate new approaches to digital discoverability and accessibility for collections. They present new opportunities for audiences to engage with, and co-create from, the collection. MAC, therefore, incorporate not only collections as data, but the attendant technologies that can read this data and act upon it. As such, MAC represent systems in which collection items become actuators upon which machines react with multiple possible intents, outputs, and implications for libraries (Padilla 2019).

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To cite this work, you can use the following BibTex:

    title = {Custodians \& {{Midwives}}: {{The Library}} of the {{Future}}},
    author = {Bell, Genevieve and Zafiroglu, Alex and Assaad, Zena and Bradley, Charlotte and Cooper, Ned and O'Brien, Ellen and Reid, Kathy and Ruster, Lorenn},
    year = {2021},
    month = jun,
    pages = {184},
    address = {{Canberra, Australia}},
    institution = {{School of Cybernetics, Australian National University}},
    abstract = {Research and analysis on artificial intelligence and emerging technologies at the National Library of Australia by the School of Cybernetics.},
    langid = {english}

Image credit: The future scenario illustrations in this report were created by Leib Leventhal (Monrotype) in collaboration with Charlotte Bradley and Charlotte Jones.