Issues searching other library catalogues

Some of you may have noticed that there is now a facility on the Copac search forms to search your local library catalogue as well as Copac. You’ll only see this option if you have logged into Copac and are from a supported library.

The searching of the local library catalogues and Copac is performed using the Z39.50 search protocol. Due to differences in local configurations the query we send to Copac and the various library catalogues have to be configured very differently.

When we built the Copac Z39.50 server, we tried to make it flexible in the type of query it would accept within the limitations imposed upon us by the database software we use. Our database software was made for keyword searching of full text resources. As such it is good at adjacency searches, but you can’t tell it you want to search for a word at the start of a field.

Databases built around relational databases tend to be the complete opposite in functionality. They often aren’t good at keyword searching, but find it very easy to find words at the start of a field.

The result of which is that we make our default search a keyword search, while some other systems default to searching for query terms at the start of a field. Hence if we send the exact same search to Copac and a library catalogue we can get a very different result from the two systems. To try and get a consistent result we have to tweak the query sent to the library so that it performs a search as near as possible to that performed by Copac. Working out how to tweak (or transform or mangle) the queries is a black art and we are still experimenting.

Stop word lists are also an issue. Some library systems like to fail your search if you search for a stop word. Better systems just ignore stop words in queries and perform the search using the remaining terms. The effect is that searching for “Pride and prejudice” fails on some systems because “and” is stop worded. To get around this we have to remove stop words from queries. But we first need to know what the stop words are.

The result is that the search of other library systems is not yet as good as it could be, though it will get better over time as we discover what works best with the various library systems that are out there.

Logging in to Copac: some tips

Now that you have the option to log-in to Copac to use the personalisation features, here are some tips to make logging in as easy as possible.

Typekey/Typepad:  if you have a Typekey or Typepad account, and were wondering where your login option was, worry no longer!  From the drop-down list of organisations on the login page, you need to choose ‘JISC project: SDSS (TypeKey Bridge)’.  It’s not immediately obvious, but it is the correct login option for any TypeKey users.

Navigating the list:  the list of organisations is very long, and weighted heavily towards ‘U’.  To navigate it more easily, you can jump straight to any letter by typing it on your keyboard.  You may find it even easier to enter a keyword search in the search box.  This will work for partial words as well – entering ‘bris’ will give you the options of the City of Bristol College and the University of Bristol.

Remembering your selection:  once you have found your organisation, there are options to have your selection remembered, either for that session (the default) or for a week.  You can also choose ‘do not remember’, which is especially useful if you are on a public computer.

Please contact us if you experience any problems with logging in to Copac.

New Copac interface

It’s finally here!  After months of very hard work from the Copac team, and lots of really useful input from users on the Beta trials, the new Copac interface is now live.

We have streamlined the Copac interface, and you can still search and export records without logging in to Copac. This is ideal if you want to do a quick search, and don’t need any of the additional functionality.  Users who choose not to login will still be able to use the new functionality of exporting records directly to EndNote and Zotero, and will see book and journal tables-of-contents, where available.

You now also have the option to login to Copac.  This is not compulsory, and you only need to login if you want to take advantage of the full range of new personalisation features.   These have been developed to help you to get the most out of Copac, and to assist in your workflows.

‘Search History’ records all of your searches, and includes a date/time stamp.  This allows you to keep track of your searches, and to easily re-run any search with a single click.

‘My References’ allows you to manage your marked records, and create an annotated online bibliography.

You can annotate and tag all of your searches and references.  There is no limit to how you can use this functionality:  see my post from March for some suggestions about how you might use tags and annotations.  We would love to hear how you are using them – please get in touch if you would like to share your experiences and ideas.

Users from some institutions will now have the option to see their local catalogue results appearing alongside the Copac results.  We are harvesting information from the institutions’ Z39.50 servers, and using this to create a merged results set.  If you are interested in your institution being a part of this, please get in touch.

Some people have expressed concern that the need to login means that Copac is going to be restricted to members of UK academic institutions only.  This is not the case.  We are committed to keeping Copac freely-accessible to all.  Login is required for the new features to function:  we need to be able to uniquely identify you in order to record your search history and references; and we need to know which (if any) institution you are from to show you local results.  We have tried to make logging in as easy as possible.  For members of UK academic institutions, this means that you can use your institution’s central username/password, or your ATHENS details  For our users who aren’t members of a UK academic institution, you can create a login from an identity provider: ProtectNetwork and TypePad.  These providers enable you to create a secure identity, which you can use to manage access to many internet sites.

We are very grateful to everyone who has taken the time to give us feedback on the recent Beta trials.  But we can never get enough feedback!  We’d love to hear what you think about the new Copac interface:  you can email us; speak to us on twitter; or leave comments here.

New Copac interface

The new Copac interface is now live.

You can now search Copac quickly from the basic Copac interface, without logging in.

Search and export records using the basic Copac interface, incorporating book and journal table-of-contents where available. You can export records directly into EndNote and Zotero.

Logging in gives you access to a range of additional facilities, including:

  • A personal Search History that you can tag, annotate, and develop over time as a record of your
    research.
  • A personal My References list that you can tag, annotate, and
    develop over time. Export selected records for use in reference management software.
  • Some users will have the option to search your own university library catalogue alongside Copac.

Login for University/college members: login to Copac with your
university/college username or Athens username.

Login for Non-academic Copac users: you can create a personal login using one of the following identity providers:

ProtectNetwork®

TypeKey: TypePad Profiles

There is more info on the TypeKey Identity Bridge on the UK
Access Management Federation
Web site

Please email the Copac helpdesk: copac@mimas.ac.uk with any feedback, or if you have any questions about the new interface.

Copac is changing…

The new personalised Copac will be made available during August 2009. Thank-you to the many people who have taken the time to send comments and requests relating to the Beta interfaces. We’ve had some really useful feedback and we’ll be following up many of the comments both before the release and over subsequent months.

Copac is changing…

The new personalised Copac will be made available during August 2009. Thank-you to the many people who have taken the time to send comments and requests relating to the Beta interfaces. We’ve had some really useful feedback and we’ll be following up many of the comments both before the release and over subsequent months.