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Irish History Online – To Infinity and Beyond!

In the latest Library blog post Deputy Librarian Meadhbh Murphy gives an update on the work being done by the Irish History Online (IHO) team.

Irish History Online (IHO) is a free to use bibliographic records database that lists works on Irish history published since the 1930s, with selected material published in earlier decades, up to the present day. It currently contains over 113,000 bibliographic records. It is hosted and managed by the Royal Academy Library and is compiled, edited and regularly updated by a team of voluntary editors and compilers.

Fig.1 Newly acquired publications to the Library.

The IHO includes descriptive bibliographic information on books and pamphlets, articles from journals published in Ireland or internationally, and chapters from books of essays, including Festschriften and conference proceedings. The information needed to create an IHO record is gathered from several sources by our compilers. While working onsite in the Royal Irish Academy Library, compilers have access to the Academy’s extensive library holdings. They also have access to all newly acquired publications and up to date journals subscribed to by the Library. Another greatly appreciated source for record details comes from the Legal Deposit departments at Trinity College Library and the National Library of Ireland. Both institutions supply the IHO with monthly lists of new acquisitions relating to Ireland. The team works through these lengthy lists adding the relevant bibliographical information to the IHO database.

Fig.2 Some of the many periodicals and journals the Library subscribes to.

The catalogue is not an exhaustive list of every known publication relating to Irish history. However, we are continuously striving to include as much accurate and relevant bibliographical information as we can, and we do this in the following ways. To help keep this process consistent and concise, we have created relevant online forms to enable authors, academics, historians and researchers to submit their own bibliographic information. There are four forms: Article in Book ; Article in Journal ; Publication Title: and Foreword, Preface Etc.

Fig.3 Start of the online form to submit an Article in Book to the IHO database.

Or if the list of various publications is quite substantial, the bibliographical information can be emailed to and the team will input this information into the database. As well as our volunteers, the IHO is delighted to take part in the SPUR – Summer Programme for Undergraduate Research funded by Maynooth University. This programme allows an undergraduate student to gain valuable, paid research experience in the Royal Irish Academy for 6 weeks over the summer break. The student will be based in the Library on Dawson Street for the duration of the programme.

Fig.4 Current number of IHO records stands at over 113,000!

At present, the IHO database is linked to the RIA Library management system. The Library will be upgrading their system this year to an open source cloud-based system, called Koha. Currently volunteers have to travel into the Library to access the IHO database, thereby restricting who can volunteer to those individuals with free time during the working week. With Koha, this will enable new and existing volunteers to input bibliographical information into the IHO database remotely.

Fig.5 IHO volunteers hard at work onsite inputting bibliographical information.

The new system will also allow the Library to ingest large amounts of bibliographic data that publishers provide to the IHO in a quicker and more efficient way. This will greatly increase the records within the IHO, making it a more robust online resource. However, before Koha is up and running, there needs to be work carried out on the existing IHO database records to make sure they are compliant to recognised international bibliographic standards and therefore easier for migration into the new system. It will be a lot of work to undertake in the coming months — but one that will hugely benefit users of the Irish History Online database in the long term.

So, watch this space!

By Meadhbh Murphy, Deputy Librarian