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.

Record error reports button

The eagle-eyed among you may have already spotted that the ‘Does this record have errors?’ button is no longer included in the Copac records.

This feature was introduced, initially as an experiment, a couple of years ago and we’ve been really pleased by the way people have responded – identifying problems and supplying information that we can pass on to our contributors. This helps them clean up their local database and in turn improve Copac.

However, the response has been such that at the moment we can’t keep up with the number of error reports. Our blog post from May 2013 explains the processes and time taken around correcting errors in Copac: http://copac.ac.uk/blog/2013/05/record-error-reports/.

This can usually be absorbed into our workflow but the Copac team has reached a particularly busy point this summer, with two major factors affecting our capacity to deal with the error reports:

* We’re due to release the new Copac database in a few weeks (watch this space!)

* Staff changes mean we’re stretched on the Copac support side at the moment.

The decision to switch off the feature wasn’t taken lightly! However, we do plan to bring this back. We are looking at ways to streamline the handling of error reports to make it easier for us to support, at which point we will reintroduce this feature.

Meanwhile, we’re very grateful to all Copac users who’ve given us feedback using the button.

Library of the Royal Academy of Arts catalogue loaded

We’re pleased to announce that the holdings of the Royal Academy of Arts Library have been added to Copac.

The Royal Academy Library holds a comprehensive collection of books and exhibition catalogues on British art, artists and architects, with a particular concentration on the life and practice of past and present Members of the Royal Academy and the history of the institution, its exhibitions and collections.

Photo of Royal Academy of Arts Library

The Royal Academy of Arts Library. Photo: Benedict Johnson.

Holdings include complete runs of the Royal Academy annual (Summer) exhibition catalogues from 1769 to the present, and the loan exhibition catalogues from 1870 to now. The library also holds a special collection of illustrated books, which highlights the contribution of British artists to the illustration and design of the book.

The library’s Historic Book collection, comprising some 12,000 volumes published before 1920, reflects the early teaching philosophy of the Academy Schools. It includes rare volumes of engravings reproducing masterpieces from classical to post-Renaissance European art and architecture, and original editions of virtually all the early treatises on art, anatomy, perspective, colour theory and connoisseurship.

To browse, or limit your search to the holdings of the Royal Academy of Arts Library, go to the main tab on copac.ac.uk and choose ‘Royal Academy of Arts’ from the list of libraries.

Cataloguing update issues

Each of our contributing libraries supplies updates to keep Copac data current and accurate (this is generally weekly or monthly, but may be less frequent for smaller contributors whose collections are less subject to change). Due to circumstances beyond our control, some library catalogue updates on Copac are currently subject to delay.

The library catalogues for Imperial College London, Manchester, Sheffield and York Universities are all currently awaiting updates on the Copac database. These libraries have all moved to a new library management system, Alma, and are currently unable to export adequate data for Copac. Until Alma have resolved this problem the records on Copac will not reflect the latest information available on these libraries’ catalogues.

Meanwhile, at the Copac end we are actively testing the exported data with one of the libraries to help with resolving this problem. Once the data export is working for one of the libraries we are hoping to get updates back to normal for the affected libraries fairly quickly, but a system change requires a catalogue reload for each library which may take a few weeks overall.

The University of Birmingham is also changing library system and has suspended updates in the meantime. We are awaiting more information on their progress.

We hope this issue will be remedied soon but don’t have any confirmed date as yet. We do appreciate that this is frustrating and thank you for your patience.

Once the move to the new Copac database takes place we will be looking at more streamlined ways of managing data updates and supporting particularly our smaller contributors with this process. You can see when records were last added from each library on our Library Update page.

New Directory of Rare Book and Special Collections in the UK and Republic of Ireland and the RLUK “Hidden Collections”

Dr Karen Attar is currently editing a new edition of the Directory of Rare Book and Special Collections in the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland: http://specialcollectionsdirectory.org for the Rare Books and Special Collections Group of CILIP. Here she reflects on how it relates to RLUK activity:

Recently I was looking again at the results of the survey carried out by the London Library and RLUK in 2010 on hidden collections: http://www.rluk.ac.uk/work/hiddencollectionsreportwork, conducted to gather evidence about the ongoing need for retrospective cataloguing. Findings included the facts that hidden collections are a problem (because, not being known, they are becoming marginalised and therefore cannot be earning their keep in terms of use); that some sectors have more hidden collections than others but that the problem is cross-sectoral; and that special collections, both printed and archival, form a significant proportion of the hidden collections. An intriguing point of the survey was its sheer breadth of coverage: not just the university and national libraries that are especially strongly connected with RLUK, but such diverse places as the National Portrait Gallery, Hull City Libraries, and the Highgate Literary and Scientific Institution.

Editing the Directory of Rare Book and Special Collections in the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland makes one very aware of just how fascinating some of these hidden collections can be. Like the survey, the Directory aims to cover all libraries that are willing to make their holdings open to bona fide researchers: national libraries, university libraries, school libraries, ecclesiastical libraries of different levels and denominations (how many people know about the French Protestant Church’s library in London, which has existed since the early seventeenth century?), museum libraries, professional libraries, subscription libraries, club libraries, company libraries, and more. The only restriction is that they must contain printed rare book or special collections of at least fifty volumes. Libraries are asked to provide brief collection level descriptions providing the date range of material, subject matter, and other salient features; the provision of urls enables potential users to investigate in more detail from each library’s own website. Especially exciting is to see reports from libraries not represented in the previous edition of the Directory (1997) – some, but by no means all, new libraries. Take the following, for sheer diversity:

    • The Congregation of the Poor Servants of the Mother of God in Brentford, Middlesex. This international Catholic religious order was founded by Frances Margaret Taylor (1832-1900), http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frances_Margaret_Taylor who established a considerable reputation in the late-nineteenth-century as a journalist, author, and translator. It is to her that the order owes the origin of its library, which focuses on the various editions of the literary works of Fanny Taylor (aka Mary Magdalen Taylor) and her friend Lady Georgiana Fullerton. Given the century, this might sound pedestrian – but in fact Copac shows her output to be held in few libraries, mainly Oxford (16 titles), Cambridge (18 titles), Trinity College Dublin (10 titles) and Heythrop College, London (8 titles), and no library on Copac holds everything.
    • Prison Service College Library, Rugby. Here there are some 200 volumes, mainly related to prisons, including some by the early prison reformer John Howard (1726-1790).
  • The Laurence Sterne Trust http://www.laurencesternetrust.org.uk/the-collection/ at Shandy Hall, near York.
    Marbled page featured in 'The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman'

    Marbled page featured in ‘The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman’. Image reproduced with permission of the Laurence Sterne Trust.

    Founded in 1967, this holds the world’s largest collection of first and contemporary editions of the works by Anglo-Irish curate and writer Laurence Sterne (1713-1768), as well as a comprehensive run of later editions and of translations into more than fifteen foreign languages, and other books, manuscripts, and ephemera relating directly and indirectly to Sterne.

  • The Grey Coat Hospital School, London. Headmaster William Dear bequeathed his collection to the school in 1728, and the subsequent donations enriched the library: mostly mathematical and Christian texts, reflecting the school’s history as a religious foundation that prepared its pupils to be ships’ navigators.
  • The Mills Archive, Reading (founded 2002). http://www.millsarchive.org/. Its library contains about 3-4,000 rare, out-of-print or hard-to-find books and pamphlets on mills and milling worldwide from primitive technology through to the present day. Most titles were published in short runs or privately printed; about one-quarter are in foreign languages.

    The Mills Library

    The Mills Library. Image reproduced by permission of the Mills Archive.

Not all these collections are hidden. Some have opacs accessible from their own websites – and the definition for the ‘hidden collections’ study is that collections are not catalogued online; it does not look at how or where they are catalogued. Very few collections being reported to the Directory have no finding aid at all: many still count as ‘hidden’ for want of online cataloguing, but it is unusual not to have a card catalogue, a printed catalogue, or a handlist of some description, and sometimes this is mounted on the web. But one needs to know that an organisation like the Mills Archive or the Laurence Sterne Trust exists in order to go to its website and use its catalogue, and here the Directory of Rare Book and Special Collections meets a need by recording the presence of collections rich in editions of Emanuel Swedenborg (the Swedenborg Museum), economic pamphlets (the Marshall Library of Economics at the University of Cambridge), Regency novels written by women (Chawton House), and so forth.

A desire arising from RLUK’s hidden collections report was for an online register of retrospective cataloguing. The Directory does not quite provide that, but it goes a long way towards providing all the information by noting a large number of collections and by recording when they are not catalogued online, and noting the alternative method of accessing the contents. RLUK’s ‘Unique and Distinctive Collections’ project is intended to show ‘how RLUK members and other libraries can make the most of their collections in challenging times’. Reporting their presence and holdings to the Directory is a good start.

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: copac@mimas.ac.uk

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

Library of the Society of Friends catalogue loaded

We’re pleased to announce that the holdings of the Society of Friends Library have been added to Copac.

Photo of Society of Friends Library

Photo: Colin Edwards. Copyright: Britain Yearly Meeting of the Society of Friends (Quakers)

The Library of the Society of Friends is one of the world’s largest collections of Quaker and Quaker related material. Founded in 1673, its printed collections include works published by the Society of Friends, and works written by and against Quakers, as well as a growing collection of work about Quakers and Quakerism.

It holds notable collections of 17th-18th century pamphlets, anti-slavery campaigning literature and peace publications. Quaker work in foreign missions and war relief (such as the Friends Ambulance Units of the two world wars) is well represented.

To browse, or limit your search to the holdings of the Society of Friends library, go to the main tab on copac.ac.uk and choose ‘Society of Friends’ from the list of libraries.

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.

Special Collections at York Minster Library and the University of York Library

Sarah Griffin, Special collections and York Minster Librarian, talks about
the Special collections at the Cathedral and the University.

I was appointed to the post of Special collections and York Minster Librarian in 2010 following a partnership agreement between the University of York and the Chapter of York Minster.  The university provides all library staff, and technological support through the cataloguing and circulation modules of the library management system. In return university users get free access to the Minster library collections, we run induction tours for students and we host seminars for groups using the books.

The Minster library is the largest cathedral library in England holding around 120,000 items. As well as a substantial collection of early printed books, including 130 incunabula, the library has a modern reference and lending collection. The bulk of the historic library is housed in a 13th-century building to the north of the Minster.Image of Upper Hall of the Old Palace

The Upper Hall of the Old Palace. Image courtesy of the Chapter of York.

Cathedrals libraries are known for their broad and diverse collections and York is no exception. Subjects include travel, botany, science, medicine and, of course, theology.  We attract students of medieval studies, church architecture especially stained glass, and church history. My favourite part has to be the Yorkshire collection which was donated in 1890.

It came from Edward Hailstone, a solicitor from Bradford, who thought public libraries were ‘spoilators of books’ and would not countenance leaving his collection to them. Luckily that meant they came to the Minster where they now occupy a large proportion of our special collections room. They include everything from playbills, to civil war tracts, to children’s books, to local printing; the list is endless. Choosing a favourite item is hard as I have a new favourite every week.  However here is a constant much loved item, a commemorative handbill produced by Thomas Gent who set up his printing press on the frozen river Ouse in 1740.

Image of Verses on the frozen River Ouse, 1740

Verses on the frozen River Ouse, 1740. Image courtesy of the Chapter of York

Thomas Gent was a York printer from 1724 until his death in 1778 with a great line in blarney. He wrote an autobiography which is still fantastic reading although best taken with a big pinch of salt. What he was very good at was writing histories of Yorkshire towns. His books on York, Ripon and Hull contain information not found elsewhere and appear to have been based on first hand research and observation. The Minster library has almost all of Gent’s publications and would like to complete the collection in the future.

At the Minster I battle against the same things as many rare book librarians, namely looking after a collection in a historic building with all the environmental issues that entails, and achieving objectives with limited resources. In fairness big stone buildings do actually control temperature and humidity fairly well but dust and pest control are on-going problems. We suffer every year from a plague of ladybirds that come into the building through poorly fitting windows and promptly drop dead. It can be very disconcerting for readers to find themselves in the middle of a sea of ladybird corpses!

So that’s my first hat dealt with, I am also responsible for the special collections at the university. In the main these are printed books as archives are housed in and curated by the Borthwick Institute for Archives situated on campus. It is a collection of collections, comprising of around 20,000 items. Highlights are the books of Hugo Dyson, one of the Inklings, a group that included JRR Tolkien and C S Lewis; the Raymond Burton Yorkshire Collection; two Yorkshire parish libraries; two provincial medical society collections and much much more. I have got a definite favourite here though. It’s a scrapbook from 1819 produced by Laura Hannam.

Image of Scrapbook 1819

Scrapbook by Laura Catherine Hannam 1819. Image courtesy of the University of York

It was donated to the university on its opening in 1963 but there is no more information than that. However looking at the pictures Laura has drawn it is possible to work out that she must have lived in East Kent, and probably on a farm. The pictures are quite crude but so charming. It sits with a small collection of printed children’s books illustrated by Walter Crane, Kate Greenaway, and Randolph Caldecott among others.

The area I probably spend most time on is promotion of the collections within both institutions and also to the wider community in York and further afield. This is done through a combination of exhibitions, talks, tours and the use of social media.  At present I am working on producing a treasures booklet which will showcase the unique and distinctive collections at the Minster, the special collections and the Borthwick.  I am also working with a group of academics from English and History to create an exhibition and events celebrating the 600th anniversary of the Minster library.

I am lucky to work in an institution that places great value on its special collections and with the initiatives of bodies such as RLUK in this area I am looking forward to expanding the reach and scope of the collections I curate.

More information on the Minster collections can be found at http://www.yorkminster.org/treasures-and-collections/historic-collections/library.html

For more information on special collections see http://www.york.ac.uk/library/collections/special-collections/

Humanist Library (Conway Hall Ethical Society) catalogue loaded

We’re pleased to announce that the holdings of the Humanist Library and Archives (Conway Hall Ethical Society) library have been added to Copac.

Library at Conway Hall Ethical Society

Image copyright Conway Hall Ethical Society

Conway Hall, owned and operated by Conway Hall Ethical Society, is a membership organisation and educational charity that began as a dissident congregation in 1787 in London. Since 1929 the Society has been based at Conway Hall in Holborn.

The Library originated in the 1840s as a general lending library for members, but now specialises in subjects relating to ethics, Humanism, rationalism and philosophy. It is the foremost resource of its kind in Europe and the only library in the UK solely dedicated to the collection of Humanist material. The collection includes books, periodicals and pamphlets, all of which are accessible to the general public.

Conway Hall’s book collection comprises around 10,000 volumes, combining those of the South Place Ethical Society, the Rationalist Press Association, the Coit Memorial Library and the National Secular Society. Subjects include animal rights, business ethics, civil rights, education, environmental issues, family issues, free speech, health issues, and medical ethics.

Other collections: journals (the Library houses runs of many rare and important nineteenth century freethought journals), pamphlets, archives, manuscripts, a small collection of audio visual material and a collection of sheet music. Conway Hall and its library also possess numerous original works of art and architectural features, comprising: portraits, sculpture, photographs, posters, architectural plans, and artefacts.

To browse, or limit your search to the holdings of the Humanist library, go to the main tab on copac.ac.uk and choose ‘Humanist Library and Archives (Conway Hall Ethical Society)’ from the list of libraries.