Successful completion of Phase 2

Phase 2 of the Copac Collection Management Tools Project is now complete and this is the first of several posts reflecting on the results. 

Apart from the Final Report, the following key outputs are now available on the website:

  • Proposed Strategy to inform sustainability planning for a prospective service based on the Tools;
  • Report on Retention and Preservation, summarising the work carried out by the Project in this area and considering how the Tools might provide a framework to support a distributed National Research Collection of Monographs;
  • Synthesis of the Case Studies, bringing together the results from 10 separate case studies which looked in detail at how the Tools might support  stock withdrawal, collection profiling and decision-making in conservation and digitisation;
  • Detailed reports on 6 of the case studies, along with workflow documentation intended to help libraries that are new to using the Tools.

Speaking personally, my overriding impression from the Project is of the enthusiasm within the community for what the Copac Tools might offer.  At our December workshop in Leeds, we had 35 participants from 24 different libraries.  For many, this was their first opportunity to find out about the Tools, but there seemed to be no dissenting voices.  They were able to identify with the scenarios presented by the Project partners and could see the relevance of the Tools to day-to-day operations within their own library.  They understood how this could help with space management, improve decision-making and provide a powerful tool for advocacy work with their user community. They also shared similar strategic concerns about ensuring long-term access to print materials for the research community as a whole, and were strongly supportive of using the Tools to avoid the loss of “last copies” nationally.

This last point was picked up in the March workshop on retention and preservation – deliberately planned as a smaller and more focussed meeting with a balanced mix of individuals with relevant expertise.  And again, a powerful consensus emerged.  The UK is fortunate in having very rich print collections, but if they are to continue to remain accessible for use by future generations of researchers, then greater coordination is required:  there was general agreement that we need to be working towards a distributed National Research Collection of Monographs.  The Copac Tools provide an appropriate mechanism for libraries to share information about their holdings and indicate which titles or collections they are committed to retaining for the long term.   Additional information about preservation status, access restrictions or digital surrogates might also be included, where feasible.   The meeting participants also emphasised the importance of libraries feeling confident in the reliability of this data based on a common understanding of the phrase “long term retention”.  So the backing of RLUK was seen as a key ingredient in building community agreement and participation. 

Through these meetings, a consensus has emerged, based on a shared vision for the future management of our print collections.  There is an eagerness to build a more sustainable future.  The challenge now is to translate that into concrete actions and make it a reality.

So, on behalf of the Project Team, a big thank you to all who have been involved, in any way at all, in making it such a success.

Initial recommendations on metadata formats

Following the project workshop on retention and preservation in March, a preliminary report on the subject was compiled which discusses the main issues, identifies those questions requiring further investigation and suggests a strategic way forward which would help maintain the integrity of the National Research Collection.  

Michael Emly has now built on that initial discussion of the issues around metadata and developed a firm proposal based on the use of MARC tag 583 and the associated vocabulary Preservation and Digitization Actions.  Comments on the framework proposed would be very welcome – please email Michael directly at before the end of June.

What is interesting is that in parallel to the work of the Copac Tools Project, OCLC has been exploring similar issues in its Print Archives Disclosure Pilot.  This looks at how retention commitments for print journals – and the associated question of access to this material –  can be supported and shared through OCLC services (rather like our own UKRR).  The final report of the OCLC project has just been published and discusses the metadata infrastructure in considerable detail.

3 associate libraries join the Project team

We are very pleased to welcome to the Project the libraries of the V&A, UCL and the University of Warwick as associate libraries who will contribute to the development and testing of the Copac collection management tools.

The participation of the associate libraries will allow for the exploration of a wider range of scenarios, and from a number of different perspectives.  Planning is already in hand for work on:

  • How well the tools can support work with foreign publications, especially those in non-Roman scripts
  • Identification of the time savings that can be achieved in stock editing through use of the tools
  • Developing our understanding of similarities and differentiating characteristics across similar collections in different libraries
  • Exploring what might constitute a “match” against Copac in different contexts.

Testing of a beta version of the tools with a revised interface and added functionality is already under way, and the next 3 months will see an intensive period of further development.

And coming soon – information about forthcoming discussions around using Copac to share information about retention and preservation in order to assist prioritisation and decision-making across the community.