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Why introducing an IR has helped one small institution think ‘big’


Linda Willems

Editorial illustration for 'thinking big'

CCT College Dublin reveals that only months after the IR’s soft launch, the college is already reaping the rewards

Want to learn more? In the first article in this series - Populating your IR – one institution’s tips for selecting content and securing buy-in - CCT’s Head of Enhancement, Marie O’Neill, and Head of Library Services, Justin Smyth, explain how the IR not only benefits the college, but faculty and students too.

In 2019, a small team at CCT College Dublin in Ireland took on a very big challenge. To support strategic development of the college’s twin specializations – ICT and business – they launched a new institutional repository (IR) using tge Digital Commons platform. In addition, they incorporated Expert Gallery Suite, a faculty showcasing tool.

Although the IR has yet to receive its official launch, it’s already been successfully embedded across many institutional activities, underpinning and showcasing teaching and learning, student achievement, quality and enhancement projects, research (including student research) and sectoral engagement.

In this article, we hear from CCT’s Head of Enhancement, Marie O’Neill, and Head of Library Services, Justin Smyth, about why they chose Digital Commons. They also explain how the college – and students – are benefitting.

According to CCT College Dublin’s Head of Library Services, Justin Smyth, whenever he reflects on their Digital Commons institutional repository (IR), there’s a phrase that springs to mind: “From little acorns, mighty oaks grow.” He explains: “That’s very much the plan we have for our IR. Although we are still at the start of our Digital Commons story, CCT is already experiencing tangible and powerful benefits from the platform.”

It’s a sentiment shared by his colleague, Head of Enhancement, Marie O’Neill, who together with Justin and Head of Marketing, Marie McTigue, is responsible for the IR. She confirms: “You really don’t have to be a large institution to benefit from an institutional repository. Although we are small, we are passionate about participating nationally and internationally – Digital Commons gives us that connectivity and has become a much-loved platform in the college.”

That college support is reflected in the usage figures of the IR, which CCT has named ARC (Academic Research Collection). Although ARC has yet to receive its official launch – which will come later this year – the 140+ content items it contains are already accessible and have received nearly 1,000 downloads to date.

Cultivating growth: How an IR can support the goals of a small institution

For both Marie and Justin, launching the IR has resulted in a raft of benefits for CCT. These include:

  • Supporting teaching and learning: For Marie, the ability to host expert presentations in a variety of formats, including video, is proving invaluable.

  • Leveraging sectoral engagement: Working with others in the sector is a core mission for CCT. Marie notes: “All our interactions with organizations such as the National Forum for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning are archived on ARC. It really showcases the work that we are doing together."

  • Strengthening community links: For example, the IR has become a key element of CCT’s relationships with two national library schools. Marie explains: “We've organized work placement programs with them around Digital Commons, so that’s been a really positive outcome for us."

  • Creating a resource for external stakeholders: The IR has proved the ideal location to host documents for the bodies that CCT works with; for example, it’s easy for accreditation body Quality and Qualifications Ireland to access relevant validations or meeting notes.

  • Providing resources for internal stakeholders: CCT has embedded Expert Gallery on ARC. Hosting staff profiles in the IR has been great for employees and students alike, says Justin. “It’s helped everybody get to know each other better. It’s also provided those outside the college with insight into our intellectual life.”

  • Increasing impact and geographic reach: For example, when Marie posted the presentation ‘Introduction to Learning Theories’ by Graham Glanville, Dean of Schools, it was soon gaining downloads. “Sharing our intellectual outputs is a very powerful way to demonstrate our knowledge and connect with the wider sector.”

  • Preserving the history of the college: As a fast-growing institution, capturing and archiving life at the college is a key priority for the IR team. Digital Commons enables them to upload events, awards, presentations and speeches, whatever the format.

  • Reinforcing the college brand: Justin explains: “We worked closely with Digital Commons staff to design an interface that suits our needs and reflects our institutional context, look and feel."

Leveraging student work to drive engagement

For Justin, one of the “major benefits” of Digital Commons is that it offers an effective channel to showcase student-generated content. He explains: “Very often, students produce terrific work that lies fallow on library shelves, consulted only by other students, if at all.”

During their library induction process, CCT students learn that if they produce high-grade work, the IR can help them share it with the global scholarly community. Justin notes: “Those aren’t just words. When we look at the figures, the most downloaded content on ARC is work created by students.”

He adds: “You can see the interest it generates, even in first-year students, who don’t necessarily have to do an assignment of that scale – it gives them something to build towards.”

He points to a paper by Passehl-Soddart and Mange1 that lists the benefits of hosting student collections on IRs; these include the role the collections can play in student retention. For Marie and Justin, ARC’s are also proving a powerful student recruitment tool.

Marie picks up the story: “At college open evenings, both Justin and I always have the IR open on our laptops. When prospective students discover that they can publish their applied projects on Digital Commons, they get really excited. They also love to see what faculty are up to; it gives a sense of quality, of scholarship here at CCT.”

She adds: “Thanks to ARC, from the minute the student puts their foot in the college, they're aware of our commitment to research and teaching and learning, and sharing and showcasing that. It just stays with them for the duration of their time at CCT.”

Selecting the right partner – why outsourcing was a natural choice for CCT

Introducing an institutional repository at CCT was the brainchild of Neil Gallagher, founder and President of the college. As a small institution, it was clear that CCT didn’t have the resources to build an in-house solution, so finding the right product, hosting and support services was crucial. Bepress’ Digital Commons soon stood out as the right fit.

Marie recalls: “That was in 2019 and we were only the second institution in Ireland to subscribe to the product. Now the customer base is increasing and it’s wonderful to feel that we’re part of a growing community.” She adds: “Neil has been a real champion of Digital Commons from the start and we are grateful to him for having that foresight.”

For Marie, one of “jewels in the crown” with Digital Commons is the customer service. “We work a lot with bepress’ Stacey Vaughn, and he's almost like another member of the team. He's been really very proactive; for example, he will notice something we’re promoting on LinkedIn and email to ask whether we’ve thought about adding it to Digital Commons.”

Other factors that led to them choosing Digital Commons include:

  • Cloud hosting with unlimited storage.

  • The ability to showcase faculty scholarship

     e.g., peer-reviewed papers, open textbooks, conference proceedings etc.

  • Archiving options: Not only in terms of the range of college life they can capture, but the type of media they can use to showcase it, e.g., video streaming.

  • Creation of conferences and events.

  • Support for research data management and sharing.

  • Special features, e.g., Top Paper of the Day or Top Ten Downloads.

Another big draw for Marie was the inclusion of Plum Analytics metrics. She explains: “At a previous institution, we had a separate subscription to Plum Analytics and it was more isolated from our other products. It’s wonderful to see it embedded in Digital Commons, where it really has value.”

CCT College Dublin and Hume Library

Founded by College President, Neil Gallagher, CCT College Dublin specializes in ICT and Business. Inaugurated on Monday 7 February 2005 with just 11 students, over the 15 years since the college’s launch, staff numbers have reached 70 while student numbers have grown to more than 1,000, enrolled in undergraduate, postgraduate and professional programs.

The CCT Hume Library’s physical book collection is complemented by online journal databases and ebooks. It also offers online reading list software, LibGuide software, and an information literacy program covering areas such as referencing, academic writing and integrity issues. For CCT College Dublin, sectoral outreach is a key priority. Among the initiatives the library contributes to are Women in Tech Dublin, the National Student Engagement Programme, and the Library Association of Ireland.


Portrait photo of Linda Willems