New Copac database and revised interface

We’ve released a new Copac database and made a number of revisions to the interface. The most visible changes are:

  • An updated look which will work better with mobile devices.
  • Increased deduplication, including all pre-1800 materials.
  • Clearer indication of document format (eg. print vs electronic).
  • Options to expand merged records. You can look ‘under the bonnet’ of a merged record to see the original individual records supplied by each library, or just a subset of the original records eg. just those for printed materials.

We have currently removed the options for sorting search results. This is a temporary measure, one of a number of changes we have made whilst we assess how the new database performs now it’s in service. We will reintroduce the sort options again once we have a better sense of the overall system performance. We are also looking to move off our old hardware in the near future with one aim being to increase response times.

Changes to the database and interface have been made in response to feedback, in particular balancing concerns about duplicate records vs the desire not to lose access to the original records from each library for early printed materials. We’ve recently been working with Copac users on the interface changes and we’re continuing with interface testing and development later this year. So any feedback you have on the interface will be valuable for us to include into the ongoing development.

Note: The document format identification and deduplication are not perfect, they are both affected by the variability of the data. Deduplication of records for early printed materials has raised particular issues. We have a range of checks to try to deal with some of the record variation in both these ares, but we will be looking further at these in the future.

Missing catalogues:

Four of our contributors changed to a new library system last year, so to ensure we can continue to update their data we need a complete catalogue reload. They have had difficulties successfully exporting data so, currently, four catalogues are missing from Copac. We have been working with one of the libraries and their system supplier to help resolve problems with their data export. This has taken some time, but we should begin the load of the York catalogue shortly. If this goes well we will be aiming to load the other missing catalogues as soon as possible. The libraries affected are:

  • Imperial College London
  • University of Manchester
  • University of Sheffield
  • University of York (including NRM and York Minster)

Ongoing development

The new database and revised interface have involved major changes behind-the-scenes to provide us with a stable base for continued service expansion, as well as the potential to introduce new facilities in the future. We have some ongoing system issues and we’re working to mitigate these in the short term, whilst at the same time planning a move from our old hardware onto a new cloud platform, with a focus on response times.

Keeping in touch

You can stay in touch with Copac activity through:

You can also provide feedback on the service at any time through the Copac helpdesk: as well as by filling in our annual user survey. We really appreciate your feedback and the comments we get help guide the development of the service.

Beta interface trial

We’ve been making some interface changes and we’d appreciate your feedback. Please try the Beta trial interface and use one of the email links on the screens to let us know how you get on. The revised interface works with a new Copac database which we will be releasing by the end of July. Note: both the database and interface are still being actively developed and are subject to change without notice.

There are a number of areas we are still working on but we would value comments at this stage before the soft launch of the interface changes next week. The most visible changes are:

  • We have a done a lot of work on the deduplication and we are now deduplicating all records, including pre-1800 materials.
  • The document format is clearer, eg. does a library have a print or electronic copy.
  • There is an updated look and Copac will work better on mobile devices.

You can continue to use Copac in the same way as before, however, for those wanting to use them there are a couple of new features:

  • Where we deduplicate records from multiple libraries we merge these together as before, however, if you wish you can now expand a merged record to see all the original records as supplied by each library; for example, if you are interested in early printed materials you can still see all the details of each copy.
  • You can also expand a merged record to see just a sub-set of the original records eg. just the records for the print copies.

The interface is a work in progress. We have been working with some Copac users regarding the display changes and we’ll be doing more interface testing later in the year, so any feedback you have will be valuable as part of this ongoing development.

Copac User Survey 2013

“It is a dream resource. I am so GLAD it exists!”

In November 2013 we carried out our annual user survey. This is an important means for us to gather information about who is using Copac, how users feel about the service, and what changes they would like to see. We really appreciate the time taken by the 1193 users who filled in the survey giving us valuable feedback.

We are already making a few minor interface changes in response to some of the comments we’ve received. Later in the year we are planning an interface review and the survey feedback will be valuable input into this process. However, as we make changes we will bear in mind the need to balance development requests with the wishes of those who do not want the interface to become too complex.

The following gives a brief summary of the survey results, with more details available for download.

We welcome feedback at any time, as well as suggestions for new catalogues to include on Copac that would be of value to the research community. You can contact us via the helpdesk at:

2013 User Survey Summary

Copac provides a global window on UK research materials, so whilst most Copac users are from the UK (76%) or Europe (15%), we also had responses from users across the world. IN terms of background, the largest single group of users are within Higher Education (58%), followed by Independent researchers (12%); but Copac is of value in a diverse range of areas, including publishing and bookselling in the commercial sector.

In looking at their role, some 41% of UK users are academic staff, students, or researchers. After this the largest single group of UK users is library staff (37%) many of whom will also be part of the academic community. Copac users have diverse subject interests, with many users indicating an interest in multiple subjects, but the largest proportion of responses were for the Humanities (UK 35%) and Social Sciences (UK 19%).

For many users Copac is clearly a regular feature of their work with 74% of UK users accessing Copac at least once a week. And they clearly value the service, with 94% of UK respondents agreeing that Copac saves them time, whilst 94% of UK respondents also reporting that Copac is easy to use. We are particularly pleased to see that 99% of UK users would recommend Copac. For non-UK users results were similar, but with a slightly larger proportion of neutral responses.

We’ve had some really valuable comments about what people both like about Copac and what they want to change. Many responses include feedback in more than one category so the numbers reflect the number of comments rather than users.

The database coverage and location finding ability are important for many (UK 54%), with comments also referring to the database coverage as enabling collection assessment, planning library visits, doing bibliographical research, and assessing document rarity. Ease of use and the range of facilities was also commented on favourably (UK 22%), as was the quality and completeness of the data (UK 20%).

In terms of what changes people would like to see, some 62% or users either didn’t respond or actively didn’t want change, so it is in this context that we need to respond to the change requests received. The largest single group of change request comments related to the interface (11%) whilst, given the importance of the database coverage, it is unsurprising that requests for more catalogues also feature (6%). Another 6% of comments related to a desire for specific new or improved facilities, with a further 5% concerned with improved deduplication and 5% wanting improved/enhanced record content; though there is sometimes an acknowledgement that these latter areas are inter-related and neither is easy to resolve.

The full survey results can be downloaded: Copac User Survey November 2013

Season’s Greetings and Christmas Closure

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from the Copac team!

The Copac office will be closed on the 24th December and will reopen on the 2nd January.

The Copac service will be available over Christmas and New Year, but there will be no helpdesk support. Any queries sent over this period will be dealt with when we return.

The Coming of Father Christmas - from the British Library's set of over 1 million public domain images on Flickr.

The Coming of Father Christmas – from the British Library’s set of over 1 million public domain images on Flickr.

Copac contributor RDA survey

At Copac we have been taking an interest in RDA and related developments for the past few years, but this has been very much a sideline activity. However, when the Library of Congress announced the results of their RDA trial and the British Library followed with their own timetable for moving to RDA we decided it was time to consider the implications for both the RLUK cataloguers’ database and the Copac service in more detail.

Anything we do in relation to the RLUK database will be agreed in collaboration with RLUK and the member libraries, whilst we also need to talk with our other contributors regarding their views on this change to RDA as this will impact directly on Copac. So to get things started we carried out a short survey, to get an impression of what our contributing libraries are planning.
A summary report (PDF) is available.

In short, out of 35 respondents just over half are definitely moving to RDA, with just under half still undecided. Only 2 libraries are definitely not moving. The timescale ranged from within a year to over 2 years, though again for about a third of libraries this has not yet been decided. Of those libraries not having decided to move to RDA, 5 will be accepting RDA records within their local catalogue, but for most others this was an area of uncertainty.

We received a range of general comments on the move to RDA, including areas such as interest in the actions of system suppliers and other libraries; concerns about training and a desire for support; and the effect of changes in the cataloguing environment being a long-term driver to move to RDA.

We will be working with RLUK and our other contributing libraries take this work forward. And in the longer term we will be exploring the potential of RDA to offer new ways of working with the data to support our user communities.

Cookies & Copac

With the move to the new Copac interface we have been revising our ‘Privacy and cookies’ page to update the details about our use of cookies.

For those not familiar with cookies, these are small files that a web site may place on your computer. These cookies can be used for many different reasons, but on Copac they serve three main functions:

To provide support for your research

We set Copac cookies to record your current search and display choices. This allows us to present you with your chosen search or display option rather than constantly reverting to the default. It’s about letting Copac support your search and display preferences, thus being a little easier to use.

  • For example, if you are searching for maps, each time you return to the search screen the Map Search form will be displayed. If we don’t use a cookie you will always be taken to the default Quick Search form and you’ll then need to select the Map search form again to do a new search.

We also use AddThis to provide a social networking facility, so you can share information more easily via a wide range of social networks, such as Twitter, Facebook, or just via email.

To provide a Shibboleth sign in to Copac

Members of UK academic institutions will have a Shibboleth login, which you can use to sign in to Copac to gain access to additional facilities. In particular:

  • The Search History, which you can use as a record of your research. You can edit this just to retain the most useful searches, add notes and tags, as well as edit and re-run previous searches.
  • My References: As you review the results of your searches you can mark records of interest, adding these to My References. This is a reference list that you can edit, adding notes and tags to records, and selectively export records.

If you decide to block Copac cookies the Shibboleth sign in will no longer function.

To record general usage information

It is valuable for us to have access to information about how Copac is being used. This helps us to understand how people use Copac and to ensure we are providing the right support. It allows us to ask questions such as: ‘last month what proportion of Copac searchers used a mobile device such as an iPad?’ and to look at changing trends in use over time. We have seen big increases in mobile access over recent months so we know this is an area where we need to do further work on the Copac interface.

To gather this usage data we use Google Analytics. If you wish, you can opt out of being tracked by Google Analytics across all websites, see:

Managing cookies

Your web browser will normally allow you to manage cookies, so you can selectively accept or refuse cookies from different sources, as well as deleting existing cookies. The ‘All About Cookies’ site is a useful place to learn more.

There are full details about Copac cookie use on our ‘Privacy and cookies’ page

Copac user survey results 2012

Many thanks all those who filled in our annual user survey in Jan/Feb this year. This has given us some immensely valuable feedback and we really appreciate the time our 1,603 respondents put into this.

Overall most people are very happy with Copac but there were also plenty of good ideas for enhancements and additions. We are reviewing all the feedback and will use this to support the Copac development work currently underway, as well as helping us prioritise the next steps in the development of the service.

A summary report is available (below) but the main features are:

The Copac service is focussed on supporting the UK academic community and this is reflected in the fact that:

  • 76% of respondents are UK based or affiliated with a UK institution;
  • whilst 65% of users are based within the Higher Education sector;
  • There was representation across all subject areas, with the Humanities and Social Sciences representing 55% of subject choices.

Copac users are extremely positive about the service:

  • 91% of UK respondents agreed that using Copac saved them time;
  • and it was seen as easy to use by 90% of UK respondents;
  • with 97% of UK respondents saying they would recommend Copac to others.

We received really useful feedback about what people most valued about Copac. This grouped into three main areas of data coverage, ease of uses, and data quality.

We also has many very valuable comments about changes people would like to see, with diverse ideas relating particularly to interface facilities and deduplication, as well as increased library coverage, interface enhancements and record quality.

You can download the full report: Copac user survey 2012

Copac trial interface: feedback

Many thanks to those of you that gave us feedback on the recent trial of the new Copac user interface. We really appreciate the time you put into testing and responding to us through the feedback form, email, and twitter.

I’ve summarised the feedback below:

  • In general you gave an enthusiastic response to the new interface design, including positive comments on the layout and workflow. Those who tried it on mobile devices were pleased with the how it came out.
  • There were also positive comments about the range of features, with the availability of the holding library list on the initial search result listing being particularly popular.
  • The grey ‘colour scheme’ generated a number of comments. Some people liked it but others definitely didn’t! The lack of colour on the site was to try and avoid getting too much comment on the graphics as opposed to the functionality of the new interface, so it won’t be staying monochrome.
  • There were individual comments about wording, screen elements, or requests for additional features, which are all valuable in helping us refine the presentation and facilities.
  • Amongst those who didn’t like the new interface the major concern was the lack of the ‘Main search’ screen with its range of detailed search options. Whilst the initial test was working just with the Quick search, we can reassure that we always intended to reintroduce the other search screens once we had feedback on the overall design. This obviously wasn’t as clear as we’d hoped.

We are continuing to work on the interface, reassured that we are moving in the right direction for most of you. In the next stage we’ll be incorporating colour as well as adding the missing search screens. We will also be making changes in response to comments or requests relating to individual features, as well as ensuring that it works well for as wide a range of browsers and devices as possible.

You’ll be able to try out the new interface again in a few months time and provide input into the final version before the work is completed.