National Trust libraries loaded

Library at Dunham Massey

Library at Dunham Massey

We are pleased to announce that the libraries of the National Trust are now live on Copac. This is the first time that the National Trust’s catalogue has been available to search online.

The National Trust owns 140 historic libraries, containing around 230,000 titles, generally preserved in the places where they were originally assembled and read. Many are country house libraries, some collected by wealthy bibliophiles, others containing more practical everyday books, including rare provincial printing. Other collections reflect the interests of middle-class readers; some were assembled by literary figures, such as Kipling and Shaw.

Together these libraries provide an unparalleled resource for the study of the history of private book ownership in Britain and Ireland. The collections will be of interest to researchers from a wide range of disciplines, and include a huge variety of materials, from illuminated manuscripts to picture postcards.

For fuller details please see the National Trust’s Books and Manuscripts collection webpages, or contact You can also see the National Trust’s library page on Copac.

We are confident that exposure of these exciting resources will be of great benefit to the education and research communities.

Behind the Copac record

We’re going to be talking quite a lot about the Copac reengineering, including the move to FRBRise Copac, and in order for you to have some idea of how this is going to change what we do, you need to know what we do now.  So here’s a brief background on the life of a Copac record.

Records are sent to us by the contributing institutions, usually in MARC exchange format, which looks like this:

An unprocessed MARC exchange file

An unprocessed MARC exchange file

We then run this through programmes created by our wonderful programmers (and about which I know very very little, except that they’re fantastic and save both my eyes and my sanity), which create records that look like this:

A processed MARC file

A processed MARC file

This is much easier on the eye, which is fortunate, as this is the stage where I use the warning file (also generated by the program) to look through and track down any possible errors. This is mainly only done when loading a new library – once a library has been loaded, we just keep an eye on their updates to identify any changes, or new issues that arise.

For instance, the warning file might say ‘WARNING: LONG NAME IN 100 MAY NOT BE PERSONAL NAME  REC 92765’.  I would then look up that record, and check whether the long name in the 100 is, in fact, a personal name, or if it is a corporate name and needs to be in a 110.

This program has been evolving ever since the start of Copac, and it’s now able to handle most changes with very little need for human intervention.  Therefore, when I see ‘WARNING: 700 ‘1 $aDaille, Jean, 1594-1670.’ CHANGED TO ‘1 $aDaille, Jean,$d1594-1670.’, I know that I don’t need to do anything – that change is correct.
Some warnings do need looking at in more depth.  If I see a warning that says something along the lines of ‘WARNING: NO 245 IN REC 76932.  240 CONVERTED TO 245’, then I will look at the original record and the altered record to see if that change is correct.

At this stage we’ll also check if there are any generic fields being used in a local way, that notes are in the correct notes fields, and that all records have holdings information.  Note that we’re largely not in a position to assess the quality of the data in the fields – purely that the right sort of data is in the right fields.  We wouldn’t, for example, correct typos in author’s names or incorrect publication dates.  As well as the fact that doing so would require making judgements, and make the whole process simply unmanageable, the data on Copac belongs to the contributing libraries, and so they are the ones who would need to make any corrections to the content.  Thus, in general,  the only changes we would make are to the MARC structure (or occasionally to the encoding of special characters), to try to ensure standardised data for record sharing and for building Copac.  The  data content of the fields we leave exactly as they are.

Once we’re satisfied that all this is correct, the data is loaded onto the RLUK shared cataloguing database in MARC21 format, where it is available for use by RLUK members and customers.  Back in the Copac office, it’s time for another round of processing, before the data is loaded onto Copac.  More on that next time!