The Library of Congress announced on July 22 its release of a new report by NULab core faculty Ryan Cordell, Associate Professor of English at Northeastern University, titled “Machine Learning + Libraries: A Report on the State of the Field.” In 2019, Cordell was commissioned by the LC Labs team, an arm of the Library of Congress’s Digital Strategy Directorate, to offer expert recommendations to the Library on the opportunities and challenges of adopting machine learning methods and tools. The goal of LC Labs is to experiment with new technologies to fulfill the Library of Congress’s mission to connect all Americans to its resources and programs.

After surveying recent scholarship about the ethics, history, and practical application of machine learning in libraries and cultural heritage institutions, Cordell concludes with the necessity for ‘responsible use’ based on accessibility, transparency, and justice. He writes, “Current cultural attention to ML may make it seem necessary for libraries to implement ML quickly. However, it is more important for libraries to implement ML through their existing commitments to responsibility and care.”

The report stands out for its interviews with leading digital humanists from Northeastern, including Amanda Rust, the Digital Scholarship Group’s associate director, and three NULab core faculty: Dan Cohen (Vice Provost for Information Collaboration, Dean of the Library, and Professor of History), Laura Nelson (Assistant Professor of Sociology), and David Smith (Associate Professor, Khoury College of Computer Sciences).