7/26/17

Now I Want a ChatBot!

One of the highlights of the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL) conference in Austin this year was the Innovation Tournament which pitted three librarians' tech innovations against each other. With two prizes, each worth $2,500, up for grabs, the competition was pretty tough. There was a scanning project management innovation, a Virtual Reality presentation preparedness tool, and an innovative ChatBot for legal information assistance. The ChatBot really caught my attention as something that I would love to test out on a local level.

We've all probably seen ChatBots either on Facebook, or when we go to ask for customer service with our favorite online retailers. The idea is pretty simple in that it basically automates many of your frequently asked questions (FAQs) into an interactive chat session. From requesting a maintenance man out to fix your dishwasher to ordering a pizza, ChatBots are out there to handle repetitive tasks.

Imagine the FAQs for law libraries that a ChatBot could help answer.

  1. Point to practice groups specific materials
  2. Pull cases 
  3. Reset passwords 
  4. Identify book locations on a shelf in the office 
  5. [fill in the blank]
I would guess that pretty much anything that you have on your library portal page as a frequently answered question could be leveraged into a ChatBot.

There has to be a good role that vendors could play in helping law librarians out with some of these features. I can see where a citation pull could go directly into a Westlaw, Lexis, Fastcase, etc. citation box and retrieve the material automatically. Passwords could be reset through an API connection either directly from the vendor, or if you are using a content management system (CMS) like Research Monitor or OneLog, you could verify the person's identity and recover the password from your CMS. The ChatBot could interface with the library catalog and use the wealth of content knowledge contained there to quickly isolate materials the attorney needs. It could even point out that obscure print material that you've kept updated for just this specific occasion. 

There is a great opportunity for a collaboration on the local level for the IT departments and the Law Library to create ChatBots which highlight the functionality of the organization's web portal. There is also an opportunity for law librarian and legal information vendor collaboration for quickly pointing people to the right resources at the right moment. I understand that there are a number of logistical issues regarding whether ChatBots are locally hosted or cloud-based; is it only available on the local network, or can it be an app on the lawyers' phones; and how do we work with the different variations of ChatBot platforms that are out there? Even with all these issues, I still think there is a great opportunity here for those willing to blaze a trail with using ChatBots in their law libraries. 


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