Libraries at University of Nebraska-Lincoln


The Virtue of Reference

Wayne Bivens-Tatum, Princeton University

Document Type Article


Reference work is neither an art nor a science. Its motivating virtue is an intellectual virtue, but the one most difficult to teach: what Aristotle called phronesis, which is usually translated as prudence or practical wisdom. Reference is a phronetic activity. The concept of "virtue ethics," and Aristotle's views on virtue are applied to library reference, and applied to being a reference librarian.