Established in 1961, the Library Research Center (LRC) was an integral part of the University of Illinois Graduate School of Library and Information Science, conducting research intended to increase library effectiveness, through the application of qualitative research methods including surveys, focus groups, and interviews. Following the retirement of Leigh Estabrook in 2007, Carole Palmer was named Center director and transformed the LRC into CIRSS, a campus-level Research Center with an ambitious new focus on research into how digital information can advance the work of scientists and scholars. CIRSS research concentrated on scientific communication, digital humanities, and next-generation libraries and museums, with projects funded by NSF, IMLS, and the Mellon Foundation. The Data Curation Education Program (DCEP), Curation Education in Research Centers (DCERC), and Socio-technical Data Analytics (SODA) projects led to the creation of new academic programs and specializations. The CIRSS Seminar Series and e-Science Research Roundtable provided opportunities for iSchool students and faculty to present their work and discuss problems in the areas of research data curation and integration. Palmer left the school in 2014.

Bertram Ludäscher was named director of CIRSS in 2015. A leading figure in scientific data and knowledge management, his work on scientific workflows and automated data curation brought to CIRSS an integrated view of the scholarly knowledge production lifecycle. Under Dr. Ludäscher, Center activities have focused on understanding and addressing researcher needs in the areas of automated data curation and cleaning; provenance capture and management; and research transparency and reproducibility. CIRSS has led and contributed to large-scale research and infrastructure projects including DataONE, Whole Tale, SKOPE, and TRACE. In short, the mission of CIRSS under the direction of Dr. Ludäscher has been to ensure that research artifacts are not only FAIR, but precisely meaningful and clearly relevant–and thus fundamentally valid and worthy of use and reuse–in the context of ongoing and future efforts by practicing researchers. The Faculty Theme Leads program was introduced in 2022 to create a more impactful iSchool faculty core within the Center.

The Whole Tale project (2015-2023) played a central role in the growth of CIRSS, developing Center expertise and capacity and strengthening the relationship between the iSchool and NCSA. Developed collaboratively between leadership at NCSA and iSchool faculty, Whole Tale established CIRSS as a leader in research transparency and reproducibility infrastructure.