User Guide

What is Copac?

Copac is a free online merged library catalogue where you can search the catalogues of the UK national libraries, alongside many University libraries, and specialist libraries such as the Wellcome Trust and the National Art Library at the V&A.

Copac is not just books. You can also find materials in all different formats: e.g. books, journals, conference proceedings, theses, electronic resources, music and multimedia materials such as DVDs. You can also find rare and unique materials such as early manuscripts and archive materials.

Why use Copac?

You can use Copac as a resource discovery tool to search for resources not available in your local public or institution library. Librarians and researchers often use Copac to check bibliographic information.

To start searching Copac, go to: You will see a search box on the home page. You can choose to do a Quick Search, Main Search or Map Search.

Quick Search

The first time you search Copac, your searching session will open on ‘Quick Search’. This gives you options to search for:

  • Title
  • Author
  • Keyword

Enter your search terms into the search boxes provided, e.g.:

  • Title: “gods of management” or
  • Keyword: impressionists

Click on ‘Search’ to carry out your search.

Search tips

  • Put speech marks around your search terms if you want to search for a phrase. (e.g. gods of management)
  • * can be used at the end of the root of a word to search for different endings

e.g. photograph*

searches for photograph, photographs, photographer, photography

Too many or few results, or not what you expected? Try these tips:

  • Check your spellings or try different spellings, e.g. try ‘labor’ instead of ‘labour’
  • Try American terms, e.g. replace 'car' with 'automobile' or vice versa
  • Use broader/narrower search terms or alternatives e.g. replace ’German measles’  with ‘rubella’

Search results

  • You will see a set of results with brief descriptions of each item and a list of which libraries have copies
  • If you click on the 'magnifying glass' beside the title, you will see a pop up appear, with a preview of the bibliographic details
  • Click on the title of an item to go to the ‘Full record’. This gives you more details about the item

Main Search

If you need further options, you can choose Main Search. (2nd tab).

This allows you to narrow your search. You can enter information about date, material type, language, ISBN etc. Avoid adding text into every field as this will narrow down your search too much and you might get 0 results.

Remember when you are looking at Copac records that most library catalogue records are created by different people and there can be a lot of variation between catalogue records, even if it is a record for the same item.

Search Fields

  • Title
    • Enter the full title, the start of a long title, or just the main title words. Copac ranks the results of a title only search, displaying the records that best match your query at the top of the result list.
  • Journal title
    • Enter the journal title and use the 'Material type' field to limit the search to Journals & other periodicals.
  • Author
    • Author & title
      • Entering the author surname and one or two distinctive title words is usually a quick way of finding an item if you know what you are looking for.
    • Author names, editors, translators etc.
      • For people, enter the name in a familiar form:
        • e.g.:
          • T. S. Eliot  
          • Jane Austen
          • Clarke, Arthur C
    • If you are unsure of someone’s first name or the spelling of that name, use surname and initial(s), as this finds all first names starting with those initials.
    • When the author is an organisation, enter an acronym, full name, or the main words of the name.
      • Eg WHO, World Health, will both find items by the World Health Organisation
  • Publisher names
    • Publisher names can vary in records so only use this if you need to. Enter the main word(s) e.g.
      • Collins
      • Routledge
  • ISBN/ISSN (etc.)
    • The ISBN and ISSN are unique numbers offering a quick search and you need no other search terms.
      • If you copy and paste an ISBN into the Copac search field, make sure that you remove any hyphens. e.g.
      • 978-0141195438 should be 9780141195438
  • Subject
    • The Subject search checks the subject fields, (often in US English), content notes fields, and titles of records.
    • Automatically searches for singular and plural forms of English search words.
  • Keyword
    • The Keyword search checks the content of the whole record. Used alone it can find very large numbers of records, and is worth trying if other searches fail.
    • Automatically searches for singular and plural forms of English search words.

Limit search by:

  • Material Type:
    • e.g.
      • Journals & other periodicals
      • Theses
  • Date:
    • enter a date or date range,
    • e.g.
      • 1794
      • 2004-
      • 1940-1945
  • Place of publication:
    • this can be vary a lot (or not be included), so only include it if you really need to
  • Language:
    • choose a language from the list
  • Library:
    • choose one or more libraries from the list

Map Search

If you are looking for maps and plans, then you can choose Map Search. (3rd tab).

This limits your search to just maps and plans and you can add place names and map scales to your search.

Non-Roman scripts

  • You can search Copac using scripts such as Arabic, but older records may not include original script text.
  • Transliteration variations can also be a problem with non-Roman scripts, so try variant spellings.

Sign in to Copac

You can now log in to Copac. If you are logged in, your search history saves automatically, you can add records to ‘My References’, and see the latest journal table of contents information in the full record display

Username and Password

Click on ‘Sign in’in the top right hand corner of your screen. You will see the question "Which organisation would you like to sign in with? Start typing the name of your organisation and you will see a list of possibles. Select your organisation and click on continue. Enter your institutional username and password to log in. You can then search Copac as normal.

Search History

Your search history is automatically saved and dated. You can edit your search, and add your own notes and tags.

  • Click on [Edit]. This takes you back to the search page and you can amend your search.
  • Click on [Add notes], a free text box appears so you can enter text to help your research. e.g. Try again in 2 weeks. Click on ‘Save’ when you have finished.
  • Tags will be chosen from your keywords. You can add your own tags by typing in the tag box and selecting ‘Add tags’. This is particularly useful if you are working on more than one project or you would like to group your searches.  

My References

If you want to add records to ‘My References’, click on the paperclip icon. This is found on the left-hand side of the title. Once you have added items to your ‘My References’ list, you can edit them and add your own notes and tags.

  • Click on [Edit]. This allows you to edit the reference. Click on ‘Save’ when you have finished. You could use this to create your own online bibliography.
  • Click on [Add notes], a free text box appears so you can enter text to help your research. e.g. Get interlibrary loan? Click on ‘Save’ when you have finished.
  • Tags will be chosen from your keywords. You can add your own tags by typing in the tag box and selecting ‘Add tags’.

Accessing materials

Local Holdings

You can see the list of libraries which have copies of the item you are looking on the right hand side of the 'Full record'. Click on the name of the library to see holdings information. This gives you information about where your item is in the library, including which branch library, shelf location, available journal volumes, local notes etc. Some libraries also show if an item is currently on loan, or reference only etc.    

Linking to Full-text

Some Copac records contain a URL link to the online full-text, or summary etc., where this is provided by another service. Some online materials are free access, but others are restricted to members of subscribing institutions. Talk to your library about access to specific full-text services.

OpenURL link: access your own library service

Also on the right hand side of each ‘Full record’, you will see an OpenURL link.
e.g. Find it @JRUL
If your own library has OpenURL access, the link will give local options for obtaining items found on Copac.

  • e.g. there may be a link to the full-text of a journal where your academic library has paid for online access.
  • e.g. you may be able to search your own library catalogue for a book you've identified on Copac, or there may be a link to your inter-library loan service.

The OpenURL facilities are organised by your library, so if you have questions please ask your local library.

Inter-library loan

Most items recorded on Copac are not available online. To get hold of most materials, you can organise an inter-library loan through your local public or institution library. For rare and specialist items you may need to arrange a visit.

If you need to contact a Copac library about arranging a visit then you can find contact details on the Libraries page.

Help and Advice

Online help is provided using the 'Help' option or by clicking on the question mark icon beside each field.

For help or more information contact the Copac Helpdesk:

Email: (please state that your enquiry is for the Copac team)
Twitter: @copac