Photo courtesy Cincinnati and Hamilton County Public Library

In my freshman year of college, a woman came to my Intro to Communications class to talk about the future of the Internet.

She told us that someday, the internet would keep track of our previous searches and purchases. She predicted that we would see ads for products and be offered discounts based on our search and purchase history.

I remember being simultaneously awed, intrigued, and scared by this vision of the future. I’m having that same feeling lately as I read and learn more about ChatGPT.

It’s likely your news and social media feeds have been filled with chatter about Chat Generated Paragraph Techniques or ChatGPT. Launched six months ago, it’s become the center of every tech article and philosophical debate.

What is ChatGPT?

ChatGPT is an advanced natural language processing tool that provides text or information to a user based on prompts.

It’s different from a chatbot in that it can remember past conversations and provide more sophisticated answers as it “learns.” It allows users to provide follow-up corrections. It can reject inappropriate prompts and, allegedly, it can admit its mistakes. 

ChatGPT is free for now. There is a Plus version that promises to be “available when demand is high,” “faster response speed”, and “priority access to new features.” It costs $20 a month.

Testing ChatGPT

I recently started playing with ChatGPT.

The very first prompt I gave it was What is library marketing? Here is the response.

Library marketing refers to the strategies and activities that libraries use to promote their services, collections, and programs to their target audience, which could be the local community or a specific group of users. The aim of library marketing is to increase the usage and visibility of library resources and services by building relationships with patrons, increasing awareness of library offerings, and creating engagement with library users.

Library marketing may involve a range of activities, such as creating promotional materials such as flyers, brochures, and newsletters, organizing events and programs, creating social media campaigns, developing partnerships with local organizations, and conducting outreach to underserved or marginalized communities. The goal is to reach potential users where they are, whether that be online or in person, and to communicate the value and relevance of the library’s offerings. By using effective marketing strategies, libraries can attract new users, retain existing patrons, and ultimately improve the overall impact of the library in the community.


It’s a bit professorial but accurate.

Next, I asked ChatGPT to give me a social media post that would convince teenagers to participate in my library’s summer reading program.

Hang on to your hats, folks.

Attention all teenagers! 📢📚🌞

Are you ready for an exciting summer filled with adventure, knowledge, and prizes? Join our library’s summer reading program and discover the joy of reading! 📖🌟

Not only will you get access to a wide variety of books and resources, but you’ll also have the chance to win awesome prizes for reaching your reading goals! 🎁🏆

Plus, reading is the perfect way to unwind, escape into different worlds, and improve your vocabulary and critical thinking skills. 🧠💭

So, what are you waiting for? Sign up for our summer reading program today and let the fun begin! 🎉🌞📚 #SummerReading #LibraryLove #TeenReads


It’s long. And why so many emojis??

I don’t think I’ve ever heard a teen use the word “access.”

And, in my experience, anytime you say, “Attention all teenagers”, teens immediately run for the exits. So, it’s not perfect. That’s because it’s not human. And there are other problems with ChatGPT.

Downsides of ChatGPT

There are limitations and concerns about ChatGPT. Some are disturbing, especially for libraries. 

  • It may generate incorrect information.
  • It may occasionally produce harmful instructions or biased content.
  • It also has limited knowledge of the world and events after 2021. That’s because the original data feed provided by its creators happened that year. 

One major concern for libraries

For libraries, there is also a privacy concern.

In its privacy policy, Open AI, the creators of ChatGPT, say the application may collect personal information from your messages, any files you upload, and any feedback you provide. Conversations may be reviewed by OpenAI to improve the chat. This article has more information on the potential privacy and security risks.

There is also a healthy debate happening now about whether Google will penalize online content creators, including library websites and blogs, for using machine-generated text.

Google has the capability to detect website copy and blog posts that may contain ChatGPT content. They use machine learning algorithms (ironic!) to detect text patterns that are indicative of AI content.

Under current guidelines, Google considers AI content to be “spammy”. Specifically, its guidelines say “…content that’s been generated programmatically without producing anything original or adding sufficient value: instead, that it’s been generated for the primary purpose of manipulating search rankings and not helping users.”

There does not appear to be a penalty at this time from Google for using ChatGPT to help with social media posts, emails, or ads.

So, should libraries use ChatGPT?

ChatGPT can’t replace people (at least, not yet). The tool doesn’t have the ability to strategize or empathize. And it doesn’t know the human experience of your cardholders.

But it can save you time. It can jumpstart the creative process and help you move past writer’s block.

And many library marketers are beginning to experiment with ChatGPT.

Next week on the blog, I’ll share some of the ways libraries are putting ChatGPT to use in their promotions. And I’ll share tips for using ChatGPT.

More Advice

But I’m Not a Writer! 10 Free Tools To Help You With Library Blog Posts, Speeches, Emails, and More.

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