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

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 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

For more information on special collections see

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 and choose ‘Humanist Library and Archives (Conway Hall Ethical Society)’ from the list of libraries.

Zoological Society of London library catalogue loaded

We’re pleased to announce that the holdings of the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) library have been added to Copac.

ZSL Library. Image copyright Zoological Society of London

Image copyright Zoological Society of London

Founded in 1826, the Zoological Society of London is an international scientific, conservation and educational charity, whose mission is to promote and achieve the worldwide conservation of animals and their habitats. ZSL Library has an important role in communicating information about, and inspiring an interest in animals, habitats and their conservation. It contains a unique collection books on all aspects of zoology and animal conservation. The book holdings date from the sixteenth century to the present day, and include many of the magnificently illustrated folios of the nineteenth century; books on the development of zoos and menageries; books by Fellows of the Zoological Society; the history of the Zoological Society and zoology.

To browse, or limit your search to the holdings of the ZSL library, go to the main tab on and choose ‘Zoological Society of London’ from the list of libraries.


The National Archives Library loaded

Copac is pleased to announce that the Library holdings of The National Archives have been added to Copac. The collection serves primarily as a research library for users of the archive and holds approximately 65,000 books and journals as well as online resources. It is open to visitors and staff of The National Archives.

The Library holds publications from the 17th century onwards and is still growing.  Primarily

Image from The National Archives, under CC-BY

Image from The National Archives, under CC-BY

a history library, its collection includes local history record society series, military history especially covering the First and Second World Wars, family history and directories including London Post Office directories.  It also houses complete sets of the published State Papers and other calendars of public records, a good collection of Acts and Statutes and a range of academic journals. A growing number of online resources are also available.

To browse, or limit your search to the holdings of The National Archives library, go to the main tab on and choose ‘The National Archives Library from the list of libraries.

Implementing RDA in Cambridge University Library

Celine Carty, Cataloguer at Cambridge University Library and member of the Cambridge RDA Steering Group, writes about the Library’s transition to using RDA.

Entrance artwork at Cambridge University Library

Bronze book bollards at the entrance to Cambridge University Library

“Cambridge implemented RDA in 2013”. What a simple statement that seems to be, but behind it lie an awful lot of detail and hard work.

Getting started

The main University Library and four of its affiliated libraries all implemented RDA (Resource Description and Access) on March 31st 2013. The other Cambridge libraries – there are over 90 in total including colleges, faculties and departments – will implement on October 1st. The preparations for this implementation began at least a couple of years ago, however, and the transition to RDA requires ongoing support and learning even after the initial training is over. Those 5 words at the start of this post describe a long process.

Once the Library of Congress and the British Library announced that they would be implementing the new cataloguing standard RDA on March 31st 2013, it made sense for Cambridge to follow suit. As part of the Legal Deposit Libraries Shared Cataloguing Program, we contribute to the BNB (British National Bibliography) and as part of NACO  (Name Authority Cooperative Program) we both use and contribute to the LC/NACO Authority File. Once the date was set, it suddenly felt like we had an awful lot of work to do in a very short time.

Training and implementation

One of the main challenges of RDA implementation in Cambridge was simply the logistics of coordinating training and implementation across so many libraries. By the end of this month, we will have offered RDA training to almost 200 people across all of the Cambridge libraries, some of whom are full-time cataloguers but many of whom only do some cataloguing as part of a more generalist post. Developing and delivering training in this context is quite a big job in itself. Beyond that, though, the main issues were agreeing Cambridge policy for the various options and alternatives available in RDA and also making sure all the systems were able to display, index and interpret the new MARC fields. The fact that RDA itself is in constant flux as changes and clarifications are made to the text and to the practices of the major national libraries certainly makes RDA implementation more complicated too.

The fact of setting an implementation date was itself quite useful, as it helped to focus the mind and encourages staff to take a bit of time out of their very busy work schedules to think about RDA. Over time, the number of RDA records in the BNB, in the Library of Congress and in Copac itself has grown and grown. This meant that many staff saw RDA in their copy cataloguing, which was very useful for familiarising them with the changes that RDA brings (particularly the more immediately obvious such as relationship designators, the loss of GMD (General Material Designation) and the new-look 264 fields for publication, distribution and manufacture information).

Cambridge RDA logo

Cambridge RDA logo (links to training materials website)

Creating policy: Do, discuss, document

Based on our experience of developing local policy for RDA, I would say that there is no need to wait until every aspect of policy decisions is finalised – instead try as early as possible to do some hands-on cataloguing in RDA. This really helps to bring to the surface the main issues and problems. At the recent CIG (Cataloguing & Indexing Group) pop-up workshop on “Getting started in RDA”, I talked about the 3-Ds of creating policy: “do, discuss, document”. This iterative process allowed us to develop our local policy, all of which is documented in the Cambridge Monograph Workflow (available in the RDA Toolkit, for anyone with a subscription) as well as our Cambridge Standard Record. Both of these documents are being constantly updated as changes are made to the RDA guidelines or in light of our own experiences with cataloguing in RDA.

There is a great deal of RDA training freely available online. Originally, we planned to avoid writing our own training by using as much of the freely available material as possible. However, although the Library of Congress modules were thorough and detailed, we felt that their pace and content wasn’t quite right for our local needs. It quickly became apparent that we would need to rework the existing training to make it suitable for Cambridge cataloguers. We therefore adapted the LC and BL modules, with some additional material. At this stage, we incorporated all the Cambridge local policy decisions about RDA (and developed more when we realised we needed them).

While we were preparing the training, I was in frequent contact with colleagues at the University of Oxford, Trinity College Dublin and the British Library as well as in many national and academic libraries in the US, Canada and New Zealand. The help of this international community of cataloguers proved invaluable to our own work and we were extremely grateful to other institutions, in particular to the Library of Congress  and British Library, for making their documentation and training available.

Cooperation and sharing

We agreed that it was very important to build on this spirit of cooperation and sharing and so, in May 2013, we launched CambridgeRDA, a website hosting all of the RDA documentation developed for training the staff of the libraries in the University of Cambridge. All of these materials are made available under a Creative Commons CC-BY licence for anyone to reuse or adapt. CambridgeRDA gives full details of the contents and order of the training modules. Although the training materials were developed for an internal audience and so obviously reflect Cambridge practice and policy, we hope they may be of use to you if your institution is thinking about implementing RDA cataloguing some time in the future.

Card catalogue - "superseded by"

Image is in the public domain:


Mathematical Association library catalogue loaded

We’re pleased to have added the library of the Mathematical Association to Copac. The Mathematical Association (MA) was formed in 1871 as the Association for the Improvement of Geometrical Teaching.  The MA is now the leading UK association for mathematical education at all levels from primary schooling to the university, including postgraduate work.

Page from Euclid's 'Elements'. Image copyright University of Leicester

Page from Euclid’s ‘Elements’. Image copyright University of Leicester

The MA library started on a very small scale in the 19th century and now comprises nearly 11 000 text books, popular mathematics and higher mathematics books, and around 700 runs of mathematical periodicals from many different countries.  The library also includes an exceptional collection of nearly 200 mathematical manuscript exercise books from the 18th and 19th centuries: the John Hersee Collection.  The MA library as a whole is a unique resource for the history of mathematics and its teaching, learning and popularisation in the UK from the 16th to the 21st century.

Since the mid-1950s, the collection has been accommodated in the University of Leicester Library, where the Special Collections include around 850 of the MA’s older (pre-1850) and rarer books and mathematical serials.  The oldest book in the collection is a 1533 edition in Greek of Euclid’s Elements.

To browse, or limit your search to the holdings of the Mathematical Association library, go to the main tab on and choose ‘Mathematical Association’ from the list of libraries.


University of Exeter full library catalogue loaded

Copac now contains the full catalogue for the University of Exeter, excluding joint print holdings at its shared Tremough Campus in Cornwall. Particular strengths include Middle East Collections, the Arab World Documentation Unit (AWDU) and Special Collections.

Image copyright University of Exeter

Image copyright University of Exeter

The Middle East Collection is strong in most areas of Islamic studies, especially religion, philosophy, history, Arabic literature and all the social sciences. The AWDU covers all aspects of life (except literature and religion) in the Arabian countries plus Iran. The major strengths of the Special Collections include mediaeval and early modern history, nineteenth century studies and history of popular culture, and twentieth century literary and historical studies.

The Special Collections and the Arabic World Documentation Unit are housed in the Research Commons, Old Library Building. The Arabic literature collection is housed in the Forum Library at the centre of campus.

To browse, or limit your search to the holdings of the University of Exeter library, go to the main tab on and choose ‘Exeter’ from the list of libraries.