New Copac Database

This morning we released a new version of the Copac database. Internally the database is based around a MODS XML record. This makes it much easier for us to provide COinS, show records with non-Roman scripts, provide more download formats and generally improves our life by making the records a lot easier to work with. There is now much more scope for us to provide new facilities in the future.

We have tried to keep the user interface compatible with the old one, though we have introduced a few new features. One new feature is the ability to mark records across multiple result sets and then download all the marked records in one go.

We know some people embed our search URLs in their web pages and we have tried to maintain compatibility across the various versions of our web interface going back over 10 years. If we have broken any old URLs let us know and we’ll fix it if we can.

The records delivered by our Z39.50 service have changed. And again, we have tried to make the Z39.50 SUTRS and GRS-1 records compatible with the ones delivered from the old database. The XML record served by Z39.50 is now a MODS record, which should be much more useful to other services that are using our records. Hopefully the MODS record will be so useful, that people will eventually stop using the other record formats.

Unicode support

All Copac search pages for the new version of the interface now use the Unicode character set. This allows us to display bibliographic details in scripts such as Greek, Cyrillic, Chinese and Japanese (amongst many others.) You can also search using these scripts in exactly the same way as you would if you were using the Roman alphabet.

You can test this functionality by searching our Copac V3 interface from the Copac home page. A title search for “Qian gu zhi mi” will find a set of records containing Chinese script.

The caveat is that your web browser needs to support Unicode (most common ones now do) and you will need the appropriate Unicode font(s) installed on your computer.

Consolidating Oxford

We have now started loading the records from Oxford University into the new Copac MODS XML database. As there are approximately 5.5 million records to load it is going to take some time to complete.

The Oxford records are being consolidated into the database as they are loaded, or in other words, the database is being de-duplicated as the records are loaded.

Going from the first handful of batches loaded, each Oxford record is matching, on average, with 1.3 existing Copac records. Each of those existing records contains holdings from approximately 5 other libraries. This means that each record finally added to the database contains, on average, holdings from 6 libraries.

If this consolidation rate continues for all the Oxford records it will mean, come the end of the loading process, that the database will be smaller than when we started loading Oxford.

One would expect Oxford to hold many unique items in its collections and so the consolidation rate is likely to vary widely over all the load batches.

Not all the libraries were consolidated as we loaded them, as it would have taken too long. We saved loading Oxford until now in the expectation that its sheer size and coverage will bring together many of duplicate records that resulted from loading other libraries unconsolidated.


We have introduced RSS 1.0 feeds into the search interface (currently only our v3 interface.) After you have performed a search you will see the feed icon next to the search terms at the top of the search results page. The feed icon points to an RSS 1.0 feed for the search you have just performed. Depending on the software you are using, you may be able to drag and drop the icon into your RSS feed reader to setup the feed.

The Copac RSS feeds only show records loaded into our database within the last fortnight. Hence when initially setting up the feed you may not see all the records that your search found.

We see the RSS service as a type of saved search feature for Copac. The feed should alert you to new material as it is loaded into Copac. A downside to this may become apparent when one of our contributing libraries decides to change library system. The usual effect of this is that we have to delete and reload all of their records — hence that libraries records will re-appear in the RSS feed. Libraries also update records from time-to-time and this may result in records re-appearing in the RSS feed.

Let us know if you use the RSS feeds and whether or not they have been useful to you. (The RSS feeds should be appearing in the main Copac interface at the end of March 2007. Until then they are only in our v3 interface.)


We have increased the number of fields we use in the OpenURLs and COinS embedded in the brief and full record displays. We now populate, amongst others, the author, publisher, edition and series fields. This is so we can interoperate better with Zotero.

Zotero is reference manager software that works as an extension to the Firefox 2.0 web browser.

If you have Zotero installed while using Copac (currently only our V3 interface) then extra icons will appear at the end of page url near the top of the browser window. Clicking on the icon will import the bibliographic details of the record(s) you are viewing into your Zotero database. If you are viewing one of our brief displays, then Zotero gives you the option of importing references for any or all of the works displayed.