NBK/COPAC Update for Historic Libraries Forum Members

The National Bibliographic Knowledgebase (NBK) underpins the new Jisc Library Hub Discover service, which is scheduled to entirely replace COPAC and SUNCAT at the end of July 2019. On Monday 10th June, Bethan Ruddock from Jisc gave an online update on what the NBK project means for historic libraries.  The webinar is now available to view in full here.  In this post, Jill Dye, (HLF chair) summarises some key points from the session.

COPAC and SUNCAT are vital tools within the UK library profession, brilliant for identifying specific titles in other repositories and, for some historic libraries, acting as back-up or stand-in for their own library catalogues. The announcement that these platforms were closing, therefore, caused worry to some HLF members, so we arranged for Bethan from Jisc to introduce the replacement service and answer some burning questions from those in historic libraries or with historic collections.

Bethan began by introducing some key terms. NBK is the “data lake” which underpins the Library Hub Discover service. It is this service which will replace COPAC and SUNCAT (among others), remaining free and open to everyone. While it is still in pilot and some of the search functions aren’t yet working, the potential benefit of the update is already evident (faceted searching, greater coverage of online materials, searches by region or consortium).

The root of members concerns is that data will not simply be migrated from COPAC/SUNCAT to NBK, for very valid reasons that Bethan outlined (permission must be sought, data needs to be current). This means that past contributors to those platforms who’ve not already been in contact with NBK should do so as soon as possible – data will not be moved across without that contact.

Bethan summarised some key points for existing and would-be contributors:

  • Anyone can request to contribute to the NBK whether they contributed to COPAC or SUNCAT or not.
  • If your collections are on COPAC and are static (i.e. not added to) you can request that the existing COPAC data be added to NBK (they need your permission to do this).
  • There is no time limit for sending data to NBK, but COPAC/SUNCAT will no longer be available after 31st July.
  • You don’t need perfect data to contribute. The minimum requirements are that the data is processable (not a PDF, but could be a spreadsheet) and that the title field is not blank.
  • You don’t have to contribute everything. You can just add your special collections if you decide that’s most important.

Bethan also explored some of the new features that data in the NBK would be able to provide. This includes, for example, some useful tools on how to assess the strength of individual collections. She also briefly demonstrated Library Hub Cataloguing, where MARC records can be shared. Jisc is also working on a simple online cataloguing tool with which volunteers could put data straight into NBK. This would be excellent for the many members struggling to justify the cost of a library management system (but we’re warned that it’s not a priority for this phase, so won’t appear until Q3 at the earliest).

To summarise, those worried about losing COPAC and SUNCAT for searching across multiple collections need not worry. However, data for some collections might not move across in time for the closure of COPAC/SUNCAT, so the coverage may be a little different for a while.

Those using COPAC as a library catalogue (Bethan’s example was the Cathedral Libraries project) need to be aware that data will not simply be transferred from one platform to another without permission, or without making sure that the data is up to date. Bethan demonstrated this very clearly using an example from York Minster library. In these situations, the advice would be to get in touch as soon as possible, because the NBK team are very keen to find a solution, and can’t do that without contact.

Bethan ended the session by reminding us that anyone with questions about the project, or about contributing data can email Thank you to all those who attended, and thank you to Bethan for leading the event.

View a recording of the session