It’s Official — Copac’s Re-engineering

We’ve been hinting a while now about significant changes being imminent for Copac, and I am now pleased to announce that we’ve had official word that we have secured JISC funding to overhaul the Copac service over the next year.

The major aim for this work is to improve the Copac user experience.  In the short term this will mean improving the quality of the search results.  More broadly, this will mean providing more options for personalising and reusing Copac records.

We’re going to be undertaking the work in two phase.  We’re calling Phase 1 the ‘iCue Project’ (stands for ‘Improving the Copac User Experience’).  This work will be focused on  investigating and proposing pragmatic solutions that improve the Copac infrastructure and end-user experience, and we’re going to be partnering with Mark Van Harmelen of Personal Learning Environments Ltd (PLE) in this work (Mark is also involved in the JISC TILE project, so we believe there’s a lot of fruitful overlap there, especially around leveraging the potential of circulation data a la Huddersfield).  The second phase is really about doing the work — re-engineering Copac in line with the specifications defined in the iCue Project.

We see this work tackling three key areas for Copac:

(i) Interface revision: We’ll be redesigning Copac’s user interface, focusing on areas of usability and navigability of search results. We are aware that the sheer size of our database and our current system means that searches can return large, unstructured result sets that do not facilitate users finding what they need.  Addressing this is a major priority.  We’ll be building on the CERLIM usability report we recently commissioned (more on that in another post) and also drawing on the expertise of OPAC 2.0 specialists such as Dave Pattern.  We’ll also be working consistently with users (librarian users and researcher users) to monitor and assess how we’re doing.

(ii) Database Restructuring: A more usable user interface is going to critically rely on a suitable restructuring of Copac’s database. Particularly, we are centrally interested in FRBR (Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records) as a starting point for a new database structure. We anticipate that whatever we learn as we undertake this piece of work will be of interest to the broader community, and plan to disseminate this knowledge, and update the community via this blog.

(iii)  De-duplication: The restructuring implies further de-duplication of Copac’s contents, and so we’re also developing a de-duplication algorithm.  Ideally we would like to see the FRBR levels of work, expression, manifestation and (deduplicated) item being supported, or a pragmatic version of the same.

The end user benefits:
1. Searches are faster and more effective (Copac database is more responsive and robust; users are presented with a more dramatically de-duplicated results view)
2.  Search-related tasks are easier to perform (i.e. the flexibility of this system will support the narrowing/broadening of searches, faceted searching, personalising/sharing content)
3.  Access to more collections (Copac database is able to hold more content and continue to grow)

So there we have it.  It’s going to be quite a year for the Copac team.  If you have any questions, comments or suggestions you’d like us to take on board, do leave a comment here or email us.  (Not that this will be the only time we ask!) We can also be chatted to via twitter @Copac.

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