Season's Greetings and Christmas Closure

The Copac office will close on 24th December, and re-open on 4th January. The Copac service will be available over this period, but there will be no helpdesk support. Any queries sent over this period will be dealt with when we return.

The Copac team would like to wish all of our users a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Photo by Ashley Sanders

Scheduled Disruption on 15 December 2009

On Tuesday, 15 December 2009 (around 10:00am), we’re moving the Copac website to new hardware. This is part of a major hardware upgrade programme in Mimas that will ensure we have the capacity and resilience to enhance all Mimas services.

Most users should not notice the change. However, logins to Copac using Shibboleth may be unavailable for several hours during the 15th December.

Please contact the Copac Helpdesk if you are unable to access Copac after 12:00pm on the 15th.

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.

new Copac trial interfaces

We are beginning a major redevelopment of the Copac National, Academic, and Specialist library catalogue service. The first stage of this work will introduce a login version of Copac with a range of new personalised facilities. Alongside this we will retain an open-access version of Copac.

Building on the recent Copac Beta trial, we have two new Copac Beta trial interfaces.

Personalised Copac, as seen in the beta trial, now has a new addition in the form of ‘my local library’ search, which allows members of some universities to search their own library catalogue alongside Copac, giving a single result set. This requires you to login to Copac.

The new standard Copac is a streamlined service which allows you to search and export records without logging in to the personalised Copac. It also includes a new journal table-of-contents display (where available).

Both these interfaces can be accessed at, and the trial will be running until 26th July.

There is a very short feedback questionnaire for each interface. We would appreciate it if you could fill in the questionnaire, or just email the Copac helpdesk ( with any comments you may have.

Notes on (Re)Modelling the Library Domain (JISC Workshop).

A couple of weeks ago, I attended JISC’s Modelling the Library Domain Workshop. I was asked to facilitate some sessions at the workshop, which was an interesting but slightly (let’s say) ‘hectic’ experience. Despite this, I found the day very positive. We were dealing with potentially contentious issues, but I noted real consensus around some key points. The ‘death of the OPAC’ was declared and no blood was shed as a result. Instead I largely heard murmured assent. As a community, we might have finally faced a critical juncture, and there were certainly lessons to be learned in terms of considering the future of services such as Copac, which as a web search service, in the Library Domain Model would count as national JISC service ‘Channel.’

In the morning, we were asked to interrogate what has been characterised as the three ‘realms’ of the Library Domain: Corporation, Channels, and Clients. (For more explanation of this model, see the TILE project report on the Library Domain Model). My groups were responsible for picking apart the ‘Channel’ realm definition:

The Channel: a means of delivering knowledge assets to Clients, not necessarily restricted to the holdings or the client base of any particular Corporation, Channels within this model range from local OPACs to national JISC services and ‘webscale’ services such as Amazon and Google Scholar. Operators of channel services will typically require corporate processes (e.g. a library managing its collection, an online book store managing its stock). However, there may be an increasing tendency towards separation, channels relying on the corporate services of others and vice versa (e.g. a library exposing its records to channels such as Google or Liblime, a bookshop outsourcing some of its channel services to the Amazon marketplace).

In subsequent discussion, we came up with the following key points:

  • This definition of ‘channel’ was too library-centric. We need to working on ‘decentring’ our perspective in this regard.
  • We will see an increasing uncoupling of channels from content. We won’t be pointing users to content/data but rather data/content will be pushed to users via a plethora of alternative channels
  • Users will increasingly expect this type of content delivery. Some of these channels we can predict (VLEs, Google, etc) and others we cannot. We need to learn to live with that uncertainty (for now, at least).
  • There will be an increasing number of ‘mashed’ channels – a recombining of data from different channels into new bespoke/2.0 interfaces.
  • The lines between the realms are already blurring, with users becoming corporations and channels….etc., etc.
  • We need more fundamental rethinking of the OPAC as the primary delivery channel for library data. It is simply one channel, serving specific use-cases and business process within the library domain.
  • Control. This was a big one. In this environment libraries increasingly devolve control of the channels via which their ‘clients’ use to access the data. What are the risks and opportunities to be explored around this decreasing level of control? What related business cases already exist, and what new business models need to evolve?
  • How are our current ‘traditional’ channels actually being used? How many times are librarians re-inventing the wheel when it comes to creating the channels of e-resource or subject specialist resource pages? We need to understand this in broad scale.
  • Do we understand the ways in which the channels libraries currently control and create might add value in expected and unexpected ways? There was a general sense that we know very little in this regard.

There’s a lot more to say about the day’s proceedings, but the above points give a pretty good glimpse into the general tenor of the day. I’m now interested to see what use JISC intends to make of these outputs. The ‘what next?’ question now hangs rather heavily.

Planned downtime 11/6/09

A period of planned downtime will affect Mimas services and projects from 10:00 on Thursday, 11 June 2009, including Copac. We hope this downtime will last no longer than 2 hours.

Mimas been working with Sun (our hardware supplier) to identify the cause of the fault that led to several Mimas services being unavailable during the weekend 16-17 May 2009. A potential fault was identified which requires replacement of a disk component by the Sun Engineer.

Therefore, a short period of downtime is necessary to remedy this fault. We would normally provide 2 weeks’ notice of maintenance, but we believe it is in everyone’s best interest to replace the faulty component at the earliest opportunity.

Apologiees for any inconvenience this may cause.

Copac Beta survey winner drawn

We have now drawn the winner of the £35 Amazon from the Beta survey participants. The drawing was conducted in a very low-tech manner by our colleague Jane Stevenson of the Archives Hub (, who drew the winning email address from a brown paper bag.

Congratulations to Kimberley Godwin of Aberystwyth University!

Thanks again to all who took part.

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.