According to the IFLA Code of Ethics for librarians and other information professionals, librarianship is value rich, underlying all the activities that are included in that work, across different library types and parts of the world, supported by different shaped communities and varying professional approaches.

Just as in the 2023 IFLA WLIC theme “let’s library” suggests, there is a forward movement, there is interaction and activity on all different levels. At its core the work librarians do is work with people. Whenever people meet, especially in a library, we have to ask ourselves what values do we bring to that interaction, which rights support our interactions and which ethics are the backbone making these interactions possible?

This awareness is especially important in reference and information services, as it can oftentimes be the first interaction someone has with the library – the first contact or gateway into other services the library provides. For professionals working in reference and information services being able to interact in ways that are simultaneously meaningful and solution oriented, welcoming and inclusive is a skill contained in our proverbial bones, a knowledge that is refined and renewed with each interaction. It is a process of mutual learning and exchange between the patron and the librarian.

However, in a changing world with new technologies impacting the ways reference librarians provide service, librarians’ unique competencies must be discussed. As the framework changes, interactions move from face to face to virtual chat, to email to virtual information desks to zoom.  These interactions and technology challenges create both needs and opportunities to be appreciated and addressed in meaningful ways.

Lastly, while AI is answering questions quickly and with 24/7 availability, library professionals must showcase the value we add to interactions, and demonstrate how technology can help us in supporting patrons, but not replace the core skills and competencies.

The IFLA Reference and Information Services Section is planning a 2024 webinar to include a panel discussion and a forum to discuss how reference librarians can incorporate and use new technologies in their work, create an engaging narrative to describe services and measure how reference services add value to a patron’s overall library experience. We aim to connect and support patrons, colleagues and all stakeholders alike.

Nadja Ylvestedt, Chair IFLA Reference and Information Services Section