In 2006 RLUK as CURL , BL and the RIN jointly contributed to the Challenge Fund to enhance Copac in recognition of the importance of facilitating the discovery of the widest possible range of research materials for the UK research community, as simply as possible. In August 2006 an open call was announced to libraries with relevant holdings to submit for inclusion on Copac. A selection panel chose twelve libraries whose collections would be wholly or partially added to Copac. The data has now been received from the libraries, processed, and loaded onto Copac. A second round of inclusions led to seven further libraries being selected. These libraries are now in the process of being processed and loaded, and will be added to the Copac database by the end of 2009.


Research Libraries UK (RLUK), The British Library (BL) and the Research Information Network (RIN) recognise the importance of facilitating the discovery of the widest possible range of research materials for the UK research community, as simply as possible. They believe that through encouraging libraries to expose their holdings for this purpose, and providing practical support to enable this, benefits can be quickly delivered to research institutions and researchers alike. RLUKBL and the RIN have therefore jointly contributed to a ‘Challenge Fund’ to enhance Copac by significantly extending the range of research material it covers. The Fund was launched as an open call to libraries with relevant holdings to apply for inclusion on Copac.

Copac is the web-based union catalogue centred on the holdings of RLUK libraries. These include the UK national libraries, the largest academic libraries and a number of special research libraries. Copac contains well over 30 million bibliographic records, and is the nearest service the UK has to a National Union Catalogue, particularly for monographs. It is maintained through JISC funding and hosted by MIMAS as a freely accessible service for the benefit of the community at large. Copac is very widely used; figures have risen steadily since the service was launched in 1996 and it currently attracts about 600,000 searches a month from within and outside the UK.

Applications were invited from libraries who wished to have their holdings added to Copac, the cost of which would be met by the Fund. The call for applications was especially intended to appeal to special libraries, public libraries, and learned society libraries, although academic libraries with significant named or specialist collections were actively encouraged to apply.The benefits for each library whose records are added are:
Exposure of holdings to the international research community using Copac
Costs of the initial upload of data will be met
Potentially free access to the RLUK database to help augment electronic description of collections, or the output of holdings in MARC21 format, for named collections only.

Commitments expected in return are: updates to help keep collections current on Copac; and making the material accessible for legitimate research. There was no upper or lower limit on database size but preference was given to collections adding a greater quantity of new material to the database over those that largely duplicate existing holdings.

The data is also loaded onto the RLUK database where agreed by the library. This will not only give access to a greater range of bibliographic data but will also help to recover the real costs of supporting the upload of records into Copac.

Successful libraries

In February 2007, RLUK as CURL, RIN and the British Library announced the libraries which had been selected to have their collections wholly or partly included on Copac. The successful libraries are:

  • City of London Guildhall Library
  • Institute of Education
  • Lambeth Palace Library
  • Natural History Museum
  • Royal Academy of Music
  • Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
  • St. Andrews University
  • Tate Library (Tate Britain)
  • University of Essex
  • University of Exeter
  • University of Leicester
  • Women’s Library, London Metropolitan University

The first files of data were received from University of Exeter and University of Essex at the beginning of June 2007. The data from all 12 libraries has now been processed, and loaded onto the RLUK and Copac databases.

Progress of project

Loading of the 2 million records began in June 2007. In October 2007, five more libraries were chosen to be added to Copac as part of the Challenge Fund, with a further two chosen in December 2008. The following libraries have been selected from the original applications:

  • Chetham’s Library
  • University of Reading Special Collections
  • Henry Moore Institute
  • Royal College of Surgeons of England
  • Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow
  • University of Bradford Special Collections
  • Imperial War Museum Department of Printed Books

Loading of these libraries began in September 2008, and is expected to be completed by the end of 2009. This is later than the original estimate, due to changes to libraries’ local systems.
More information about the collections to be loaded onto Copac can be found on the Copac website

Loading the data

A great deal of checking and processing takes place before the data is loaded onto Copac to ensure that the information can be retrieved effectively.

Once the data is received from the libraries a programme is written which will check that the data is standard MARC21 as far as possible. All libraries tend to have non-standard fields so these are standardised as much as possible. The data is then loaded into the RLUK database. Once this load is complete the data is loaded into the Copac database. The data is converted MODS standard (there are no MARC records on Copac) and deduplicated against the existing Copac database.

The initial load will be followed up by updates from the libraries to ensure the holdings on Copac are as current and accurate as possible.