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Providing tools to gauge research productivity

Power to the Librarian: Exploring the impact of the 21st Century librarian

Mar 13, 2012

Trinity College Dublin

The Power to the Librarian project illuminates the experiences of exceptional library professionals who are empowering their users to achieve great success. These experiences are explored in a series of case studies available here: Power to the Librarian case studies.


As a subject librarian and expert in cataloging, Niamh Brennan was asked to join the team developing Trinity College Dublin’s Current Research Information System (CRIS). In particular, she was to produce a standards-based approach to describing research outputs and train researchers how to use the new system.

That was back in 1992. Now Program Manager for Research Information Systems and Services at Trinity’s Ussher Library, Brennan recalls the impetus behind the CRIS: The Dean of Research and the head of Management Information Systems (MIS) at the time recognized that a methodical IT-based approach was needed to support the university’s research efforts.

“They realized that research projects were generating a largescale administrative effort which was falling disproportionately and wrongly in their view, on the shoulders of academic staff,” says Brennan. “The burden of paperwork was eating into time needed for teaching, interacting with students and carrying out research itself. There were also issues with reporting and accountability and business management, which needed to be managed in a particular way.”

The CRIS not only helps manage research projects, it is invaluable for managing the constant requests for information for departmental and accreditation reviews and both internal and external audits.

“Once it’s in our system, we can do all kinds of things. We can tell you that in 2004 Trinity College was in the top one percent of the world in seven fields. As of September 1, 2011, we can show we are in the top one percent in the world in 17 fields.”

On top of the CRIS, the Trinity librarians also use a variety of commercial search-engine tools to monitor the visibility and the number of citations associated with the college’s published material. If the tools discover that material generated by Trinity has been cited, the system can automatically send an e-mail to the author. Tools are available to monitor the trends and to output to statistical models and visualization systems. The librarians can produce charts and maps describing the reception of Trinity’s material throughout the world.

Brennan has found that librarians can play a vital part in an institution’s research function by amassing and cataloging the content its researchers produce, measuring effectiveness in terms of publications and citations, and feeding that data back to senior management.

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