Efficient Prompt Engineering for Librarians

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ACRL Online Course
May 13-June 7, 2024

Specifically tailored for academic librarians, this four-week course dives deep into the practical application of generative AI and large language models. Learn how to seamlessly integrate AI principles into your daily workflow, enhancing your skillset for a wide range of library services. During the course, you’ll engage with online course materials, assignments, discussions, and Q&A sessions, fostering a comprehensive learning environment. Build a solid foundation in AI and prompt engineering and acquire actionable strategies and prompts tailored for librarianship in the contemporary AI landscape.

Week 1 delves into the basics of generative AI and prompt fundamentals. Participants will learn applicable skills for efficient information retrieval and query management, including understanding how to tailor prompts to various information needs and advancing the librarian's ability to interact with AI systems.

In Week 2, participants explore different prompt engineering techniques in practical terms. They learn to guide AI through logical steps for comprehensive answers and use examples to enhance responses to complex queries, including understanding how to structure prompts that direct AI in synthesizing information from various sources and tailoring responses to specific user needs.

In Week 3, participants apply prompt engineering techniques to library-specific scenarios, focusing on in-depth subject matter research and complex topical inquiries. This week involves practicing the creation of prompts that adeptly handle these detailed and specialized information requests, thereby enhancing the librarians' proficiency in managing diverse and challenging queries efficiently.

In Week 4, participants consolidate their learning by developing a collection of prompt 'recipes' for different library operations and scenarios. This hands-on week encourages the practical application of AI and prompt engineering skills gained throughout the course. Librarians will create tailored prompts for tasks like cataloging, digital archive management, and user support, resulting in a toolkit of strategies and solutions for various library functions.

Learning Outcomes

  • Apply generative AI and prompt engineering for efficient information retrieval in libraries.
  • Utilize prompt engineering techniques for complex research and query management.
  • Develop AI prompts suitable for a range of library operations.

Target Audience

Academic librarians, public librarians, instruction and outreach librarians 


Dr. Yinlin Chen is the Assistant Director, Center for Digital Research and Scholarship, at Virginia Tech University Libraries. He earned his B.S. and M.S. degrees in Computer Science from National Tsing Hua University, Taiwan, and his Ph.D. in Computer Science & Application from Virginia Tech. His research interests include Digital Libraries, Machine Learning, Deep Learning, Cloud Computing, Natural Language Processing, and Information Retrieval. Passionate about cloud-based applications using AWS and GCP, Dr. Chen has taught Introduction to Artificial Intelligence and Database Management Systems courses. He has served on program committees and reviewers for conferences such as CIKM, SIGIR, JCDL, iPRES, ICADL, TPDL, and DLF Forum. 

Tech Requirements

The course will be offered in the ALA LMS; a computer with Internet connection is required. Your participation will require approximately 3-5 hours per week of primarily asynchronous activities to:  

  • Read the online course materials
  • Post to online discussion boards and/or participate in optional Zoom chats
  • Complete online exercises and/or final assignment

Participants who complete the course requirements will receive a certificate of completion.

Contact Margot Conahan at mconahan@ala.org with questions or requests for special assistance or accommodations.