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What is Ohio AIRS?

What is Ohio AIRS?

Ohio AIRS is a private, non-profit membership organization dedicated to ensuring quality information and referral (I&R) services throughout Ohio. Information and referral, commonly referred to as I&R, is a unique process of assessment and information-giving that enables people to make informed decisions about accessing community resources.

Information and referral services have been available in Ohio since 1963. Many I&R services were started in the early 1970s as grass roots efforts to connect citizens with the various human services available and to assist citizens in navigating the often confusing and complex choices. Today, most of Ohio’s 88 counties have some form of information & referral service.
Ohio AIRS (originally the Ohio Council of Information and Referral Providers or OCIRP) was formed in 1978 to:

  • Promote professionalism in the delivery of I&R services;
  • Enhance the collective influence of the field of information and referral in Ohio;
  • Provide support to members in such areas as technology, training, funding and policy development;
  • Provide professional development opportunities for members;
  • Enhance and support the goals of AIRS.

Ohio AIRS is the state affiliate of the Alliance of Information and Referral Systems (AIRS), an international professional association of information and referral providers.  A voluntary Board of Directors , elected by the membership, oversees the operation of the organization.

About I&R

Information and referral or I&R is a process of assessment and information giving that enables people to make informed decisions about the community resources available to them. There are thousands of I&R services across the United States and throughout the world. Many of these are comprehensive, community-based programs.

Others are specialized programs targeting particular issues such as aging, child care, and mental health. Although varied and unique, all I&R services adhere to the same standards of service delivery. The overriding goal of I&R is to bring people and services together by providing a source of information that is well organized, community-based and easily accessible.

I&R was first developed as a service in 1921. Many I&R services developed during and after the Second World War to meet the needs of servicemen, veterans and their dependents and an increasingly mobile population.

Growth has continued over the years to meet the changing needs of the population and in recognition of the growth and complexity of social service delivery systems designed to meet individual’s needs.

Alliance of Information and Referral Systems (AIRS)

In the early 1970’s, the information and referral network established the Alliance of Information and Referral Systems (AIRS) to create national standards, share information, and promote professionalism in the field of Information & Referral.

Today, AIRS is a professional membership association of more than 1,200 organizations, supporting 28 state and regional affiliates that bring people and services together. AIRS administers the accreditation and certification programs, provides training, support and technical assistance and offers an annual conference for professionals in the field.

Learn more about AIRS at the AIRS web site.

AIRS Standards

In 1983, AIRS, in conjunction with the United Way of America, adopted National Standards for Information and Referral. The Alliance of Information and Referral Systems (AIRS) has developed standards that serve as the foundation for I&R services.

The standards ensure that information and referral services are broadly available and effectively delivered. The standards define expected practices in the field and provide guidelines that help an I&R program meet the needs of the people in local communities.

Learn more about the AIRS Standards on the AIRS web site.


AIRS developed the accreditation process to assess the ability of an I&R program to demonstrate compliance with the AIRS Standards. Accreditation is a multi-phase process that assesses an I&R’s operational components and affirms the program’s excellence. In Ohio, 2-1-1 Call Centers must achieve AIRS accreditation in order to retain their 2-1-1 designation.

Learn more about the Accreditation process on the AIRS web site.

I&R Specialists

An I & R specialist is a guide to the often complex system of human services and can assist people in understanding how that system works, particularly in how to access services. I & R specialists utilize skillful questioning and active listening with empathy, support, and guidance to help people make thoughtful and informed decisions. They help identify the services most appropriate to the person’s needs, discuss pros and cons of various options, and provide education about how to obtain the needed services.


AIRS has established a professional credentialing program for I&R specialists. Certification is a measurement of knowledge in the field of I&R, that captures the skills, attitudes and work related behaviors needed by I&R practitioners. Certification is available for three specializations:

CIRS Certification for I&R Specialists
CIRS-A Certification for I&R Specialists in Aging
CRS Certification for Resource Specialists

Certification requires successful passage of the appropriate certification exam.

To learn more about the AIRS certification, visit the AIRS web site.

Resource Databases

In order to provide a wide variety of choices, information and referral services maintain comprehensive databases of social, community, and government services within a service area. Examples of these services include health screenings, flu shots, childcare, emergency assistance, counseling, legal assistance, housing, and food pantries. The I&R service’s community resource database is a critical part of service delivery and is updated regularly as information changes.

In 1983, a classification system called the AIRS/211 LA County Taxonomy was created to meet the need to organize information about community resources in a consistent and logical manner. The taxonomy provides a conceptual framework for approaching human services, provides a common ground for I&R services wanting to share information about the availability of human services and gaps in services, and provides a common language that bridges the gap between disciplines. The AIRS/Infoline Taxonomy is the standard for indexing and accessing human services resource databases.

To learn more about the AIRS/ 211 LA County Taxonomy, visit the AIRS web site or the Taxonomy web site.

Download the AIRS Style Guide