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

Getting to know the Copac libraries 3: Exeter, ‘ayns, and hamzas

If you’re not familiar with the holdings of the University of Exeter, you may be slightly confused by the title of this post. Exeter holds, in its Special Collections, Middle East Collections, and Arab World Documentation Centre, a significant collection of resources on the Arabian peninsula and Middle East, including over 15,000 books in Arabic.

Books written in non-Roman scripts have always been a slightly tricky issue for the cataloguer: is it transliterated correctly? Does there need to be a colloquial translation? What about classification, and subject indexing? Does my OPAC support searching in different character sets? Will my OPAC return results in Arabic if the search is performed in English? Will searching in Arabic (which Copac allows) return transliterated results?

This is where we come (if you hadn’t guessed it) to the ‘ayn and the hamza. The ‘ayn is a letter in the Arabic alphabet, while the hamza represents a glottal stop, and they are both often (incorrectly) transliterated as apsotrophes.

This makes the cataloguer’s job even more tricky. Add to this the fact that we deal with the records of over 50 libraries – records which have been created over a large number of years, during which cataloguing practices have changed – and you can see that we have a bit of a situation.

Apostrophes are, as a general rule, non-filing characters in catalogue records. But what do you do when an apostrophe is not an apostrophe? This problem with ‘ayns and hamzas (which can occur at the beginning, middle or end of words) was making it very difficult to find Arabic records on Copac: whether you included the correct character; an apostrophe; or nothing at all, you were unlikely to get the results you wanted.

Paul Auchterlonie, Librarian for Middle East Studies at Exeter, took the opportunity of being interviewed by me about Exeter’s experiences of being a member of Copac to raise this issue. He not only raised it, he entirely convinced me (who had never heard of either an ‘ayn or a hamza before in my life) of its importance. Then the Copac staff fixed it. Simple, no?

Well, not that simple. The fixing did take Shirley and Ashley some time and effort. Then the data had to be reloaded. And all is not entirely well yet: records in Farsi and Hebrew which have similar problems still need to be reloaded. But the moral of the tale: have a problem with Copac? Let us know! We like fixing things :)

DISCLAIMER: While Copac staff do like fixing things, there are issues which we can do nothing about (in the short term, at least – we’re looking at long-term solutions for many issues). This makes us sad. If we can’t fix your issue immediately, please be assured that it’s not because we don’t want to!

Getting to know the Copac libraries

As part of the work we’ve been doing on the future of the Challenge Fund (watch this space!), I’ve been talking to some of the Challenge Fund libraries about their experiences with Copac, and the benefits they’ve felt from being part of the Copac community.

This has been a very welcome opportunity for me to actually have a chat to

A detail from the interior of Chetham's Library

A detail from the interior of Chetham's Library

some of the librarians. As with many people now, most of our communicating is done by email, which tends to be quite impersonal and business-focussed. Having the chance to chat to people on the phone makes for a more personal connection, and you can get a different sense of the person you’re dealing with.

Although I talked to most people by phone, we did manage a mini-Copac field-trip to Chetham’s Library, where my colleage Lisa Jeskins and I were given a tour and some fantastic coffee (both of which we enjoyed very much) followed by a very interesting discussion about a number of issues, including what kind of impact being part of Copac has had for Chetham’s library. Conversations with libraries have all started from the same list of questions, and then digressed in various directions. It has been very interesting to see the emphasis on different areas from different libraries: we’ve talked about subjects ranging from the quality of catalogue records and the importance of in-depth cataloguing; to specifics of the Copac interface; and potential future mash-ups.

With Chetham’s, we arrived at a discussion about mutual promotions/marketing. This has been a theme I have been discussing with all of the libraries, as we are reviewing our promotions strategy, and looking for new ways to promote Copac and our contributors. We have been discussing a number of possibilities, including that of having subject foci on the website – something along the lines of the Archives Hub’s Collection of the Month.

All of the libraries I’ve spoken to have expressed interest in/approval of/willingness to co-operate with this, and the staff at Chetham’s were particularly enthusiastic. They offered to photograph anything in the library we liked the look of, to give us some magnificent images to use. One of the possibilities that arose from this discussion was that of having links to digital images of items from the Copac record, and/or thumbnails of the item on the results screen, in the same manner as the Nielsen BookData cover images. This may have to wait until the new database (see this post of Ashley’s for what else the new database might hold ), but it’s a feature that we are very enthusiastic about pursuing with our contributors.

There will be more posts coming up about the conversations we’ve been having with the Copac libraries and the issues that have arisen from them. Sign up to our feed at to keep up-to-date.
If you’re a Copac library that we haven’t spoken to yet, or would like to talk to us about anything, get in touch in the comments, or email We’re always glad to hear from you.

Loading/updating to Copac: how easy do you find it?

As we have been using the same processes and documentation to handle the loading and updating of libraries for a while, we decided that it was time to ask for some feedback to ensure that we were making the process as easy as possible for the libraries involved.

We asked 9 of the most recently loaded libraries to respond to a short online survey, asking them about their experience of the load and update process, how useful they found the documentation, and whether they had any suggestions for improvement. We did have to emphasise that we were concerned only with the Copac side of the process; unfortunately we can’t do anything about how easy (or otherwise) libraries find it to extract data from their library management systems, although we do recognise this as a valid concern.

The results were very encouraging! Respondents were asked to rate how easy they found the load und update processes, and the vast majority replied that they found them either ‘easy or ‘very easy’, with only one library anticipating that they would find the update process difficult. Documentation was also considered very good, with one library saying that they found it ‘clear and easy to follow’.

It wasn’t all sunshine and flowers, however, as some libraries did comment that they hadn’t realised how long it would take to get the records loaded onto Copac, or how much time it would take them to extract their data. We realise that we need to do a better job of managing expectations here: while we do try to add catalogues as quickly as possible, it can sometimes take time to complete the process, and perhaps we aren’t clear enough about that.

General comments had the Copac staff blushing, as we were told that ‘support has always been excellent’, and ‘we found the process of having our records loaded easy at our end, and thank Copac staff for their help’. One library said that they were ‘just surprised how simple and straightforward the whole procedure turned out to be.’

Responses were kept anonymous, so we can’t tell who exactly we have to thank for all of this wonderful feedback, but we are very grateful for it all :)

If there are any libraries out there who would like to know more, or comment, please get in touch with us! We’d love to hear from existing members of the Copac community who would like to comment, or from libraries who would like to be a part of the community and would like to know more about the (very easy!) technical processes involved.