COBISS Platform – Co-operative Online Bibliographic System and Services


In the information society, libraries are indispensable centres of knowledge, which also have the task of recording the results of "intellectual production". However, libraries cannot take on their role, if their work is not supported by modern information and communication technology. Neither can they efficiently function as isolated islands, so they must link with each other and provide conditions for dialogue and collaboration, which further provides the basis for the development of each individual country and the international community as a whole.

In 1987, a shared cataloguing system was adopted by the then Association of the Yugoslav National Libraries as a common ground for the library information system and the system of scientific and technological information of Yugoslavia. The role of the organisational solutions and software developer was taken over by Institut informacijskih znanosti (Institute of Information Science, IZUM) from Maribor.

In 1991, IZUM promoted the COBISS (Co-operative Online Bibliographic System and Services) as an upgrade of the shared cataloguing system. At that time, the same acronym started to be used also for the related software. Because of Yugoslavia's disintegration, the libraries outside Slovenia resigned from the membership in the shared cataloguing system, although almost all of them later on gradually renewed the collaboration with IZUM, and are at present building their own autonomous information systems based on the COBISS platform with shared cataloguing in the network. network

COBISS.SI, COBISS.SR, COBISS.MK, COBISS.BH and COBISS.RS, COBISS.CG, COBISS.BG, COBISS.AL as well as COBISS.KS are designations for the autonomous library information systems that are being built in individual countries (Slovenia, Serbia, North Macedonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Bulgaria, Albania and Kosovo). There are two systems in Bosnia and Herzegovina (COBISS.BH and COBISS.RS), because in 2013 one of its two constituent units (Republic of Srpska) decided to establish an autonomous system. In Albania, the role of the national COBISS Centre was taken on by the Academy of Sciences of Albania. In Kosovo, the COBISS.KS system is currently being built without the cooperation of the National Library.

The Agreement on the establishment of the network and the free exchange of bibliographic records, created in autonomous library information systems of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Slovenia and Serbia was signed in 2003.

Organisational model of the COBISS system

COBISS represents an organisational model of joining libraries into a national library information system with shared cataloguing, the COBIB union bibliographic/catalogue database and local bibliographic databases of participating libraries, the COLIB database on libraries, the CONOR authority database, and with a number of other functions. Functioning of the system is preconditioned by the following professional outlines and technological assumptions:

  • standardised and shared cataloguing of library materials as well as a uniform management of catalogues and bibliographies,
  • suitable qualification of the professional staff for shared cataloguing,
  • connection of libraries through computers and communications.

Each national library information system built on the COBISS platform is co-created by the national COBISS centre and the libraries as members of the system.

The National COBISS Centre (NCC) is a library information service that carries out the following tasks:

  • planning and co-ordinating activities related to linking of libraries in the COBISS system;
  • providing computer capacity for the operation of the system and the central services;
  • providing COBISS software and manuals for shared cataloguing; local library functions and other services;
  • managing the COBIB shared bibliographic database;
  • organising training and professional help to libraries and other users of COBISS software and services;
  • verification of suitability of library staff qualification for shared cataloguing purposes;
  • professional help to libraries with the conversion and transferring of data from other systems,
  • organizing access to foreign information services and databases based on consortium agreements.

In Slovenia, the tasks of the National COBISS Centre are carried out by IZUM. In other countries, these are generally departments within the national library.

Within the library information system based on the COBISS platform, libraries may have a status of:

  • the national member, which is assigned to the national library that actively participates in the shared cataloguing and performs special tasks (cataloguing national publishing output, provision of training for librarians, proficiency verification of record creators (cataloguers), cataloguing quality control, etc.);
  • a full member, which is assigned to any library that participates in shared cataloguing and may contribute their records into the shared bibliographic database if the cataloguers have appropriate permits/privileges for shared cataloguing. Without the appropriate permits, cataloguers are not allowed to contribute records into the shared database; they can only download records from the shared database to their local databases.

As a rule, established to address the development and operation of national library information systems built on the COBISS platform, are the COBISS Members Councils that consist of representatives of all types of libraries (national, public, academic, special, school), chosen according to the number of all the records contributed into the COBIB shared bibliographic database.

IZUM and the national COBISS centres outside Slovenia have concluded individual umbrella agreements, based on which IZUM provides:

  • know-how for organising and managing a library information system on the COBISS platform;
  • COBISS software for library automation, which is IZUM's original product; and
  • computer capacity for the operation of the system and the central services (where necessary).

IZUM does not cooperate directly with the libraries from the participating countries. At the moment, the only exception is Kosovo.

Based on the agreement on full membership in the national library information system, concluded between the libraries and the national COBISS centre, the libraries take on the responsibility to follow the rules of system operation and pay an annual membership fee, unless arranged otherwise (e.g. in Slovenia, the activities of the national COBISS centre are almost entirely financed by the Ministry of Higher Education, Science and Innovation). Among other things, the membership fee includes a fee for using the COBISS software.

Platform of the COBISS system

COBISS3 is the third generation of software for the automation of library operations and access to various databases, developed and maintained by IZUM, and has been in use since 2000. It is modularly designed and comprises nine software modules: Cataloguing, Acquisitions, Serials, Electronic Resources, Holdings, Loan, Interlibrary Loan, Application Administration and Reports.

The fourth generation of the software is represented by the online applications COBISS Cat and COBISS Lib. The Cataloguing software module has become a standalone COBISS Cat application in this generation, while the COBISS Lib application covers the remaining eight segments. Libraries started using both apps in 2023.

The COBISS3 software as well as the COBISS Cat and COBISS Lib applications support cataloguing procedures and business processes of COBISS libraries and national centres with the possibility of choosing user interfaces in several languages (Slovenian, Serbian, Bosnian, Croatian, Montenegrin, Macedonian, Bulgarian, Albanian and English).

Shared Cataloguing

Shared cataloguing enables a rational division of labour and time saving in the onerous procedure of cataloguing library materials and managing catalogues. Each item needs to be catalogued only once; after that, all participants in the system and in the network can access the record through the COBIB union bibliographic/catalogue database.

A close connection between local databases (catalogues) of individual libraries and the shared database (union catalogue) is a characteristic feature of shared cataloguing.

Databases contain bibliographic records for different types of library materials (books, non-book material, serials, integrating resources, articles and other component parts) and for the purposes of managing bibliographies also records for performed works.

For the preparation of personal bibliographies of researchers within the COBISS system, a unified typology of documents/works must be used. The bibliographic units are classified in accordance with the aforementioned typology. The type of every bibliographic unit is specified (e.g. original scientific article, review article, professional article, scientific or professional monograph, scientific or professional conference contribution, etc.) according to the definitions in the prescribed typology.

In both, the COBIB shared bibliographic database and in the local databases of all participating libraries the structure of bibliographic records and that of summary holdings data is the same. The local databases additionally contain uniformly structured copy-specific holdings data, vital for the library local functions and for the display in the COBISS+ system.

To exchange data in the COBISS system, the COMARC/B format is used for bibliographic data, the COMARC/A format for authority data, and the COMARC/H format for holdings data. The first two formats are based on the UNIMARC format; the third was developed entirely by IZUM. For the international data exchange, the MARC 21 format is used. Possible are conversions from the COMARC format into the MARC 21 format and vice versa. Records can be exported in either the ISO 2709 structure (MARC 21, COMARC) or XML (Dublin Core, MODS, MARC 21, COMARC).

In the shared cataloguing process, bibliographic data is entered to local databases and is updated simultaneously in the COBIB shared bibliographic database, while the authority data is entered into two authority databases, formal processing (CONOR) and content processing (subject headings of individual countries). Concurrently with this, indexing by using about 100 search indexes for bibliographic data and about 60 for authority data is carried out.

Before adding a record to the local database, a cataloguer first checks as to whether the bibliographic record already exists in the COBIB shared bibliographic database. If it does, they download it to the local database. If it does not, they can download the record from the network or from some other foreign database, or create the record in the local database, from which it is then transferred automatically into the shared bibliographic database.

For creating records for serial titles, the international ISSN database is used as the authority database; from the ISSN database, the relevant data is downloaded into COBIB and local databases. Also possible is downloading of bibliographic records from WorldCat catalogue and from the Library of Congress Union Catalog. A special agreement between the national COBISS centre and OCLC is required to download records from WorldCat.

Retrospective conversions from machine readable records, made by libraries prior to joining the COBISS system, are possible as well if minimum quality criteria and compatibility with the COMARC format are met. As a rule, such conversions are done only to local databases.

The quality, uniformity and consistency of the local databases and that of the COBIB shared bibliographic database are provided in different ways: by authority control for authors’ personal names, by duplicates control, by COMARC software controls, by record editing, by global code lists for all standardised data (e.g. countries, languages, UDC), by local code lists to provide uniformity of data within a library (e.g. statistics UDC), by automatic counters (e.g. accession numbers, numbering in call numbers), by unique identification control of serials, etc., and above all by providing a systematic training for record creators and integrating the COMARC formats documentation into software.

Shared cataloguing is a demanding and responsible job. It is performed by specialised librarians – cataloguers, because their work influences the work of all libraries and cataloguers within the system.

Cataloguers who wish to participate in the shared cataloguing process as well as create and edit bibliographic records for the needs of a shared database must obtain at least privilege A for shared cataloguing of books. The conditions for acquisition are specified within individual COBISS systems, whereby in all systems it is mandatory to complete at least the course Cataloguing in the COBISS System – Beginners' Course.

The librarians who only download bibliographic records from the COBIB shared database into their local database must only attend the course for downloading records and holdings.

National COBISS centres deliver courses relating to the use of the COMARC/B, COMARC/A and COMARC/H formats and the use of COBISS software provided that they have previously acquired the necessary permit from IZUM. The respective national libraries deliver, as a rule, courses relating to the use of cataloguing rules and other library standards.

Permits for shared cataloguing are normally issued by the national COBISS centres in agreement with their respective National Libraries.


COBISS+ provides libraries and library users with online access to the following databases:

  • COBIB union bibliographic/catalogue database – a shared catalogue of libraries participating in the COBISS system,
  • local databases – catalogues of individual libraries in the COBISS system,
  • other databases in the COBISS system – specialised databases that are a part of individual COBISS systems,
  • other information resources – foreign and domestic specialised databases,
  • Unpaywall – database of scientific articles.

You can use one of the following search modes in the union bibliographic/catalogue database, local databases of libraries and other databases:

  • Basic search – enter words or a phrase, click SEARCH and you will receive search results.
  • Advanced search – use the search form; select the search fields; use logical operators to combine them.
  • Expert search – form your own search request with the correct search syntax, however, you need to be familiar with the structure of bibliographic records.

Select the search mode that suits you most in the given situation. Basic search is intended for general inquiries. With advanced and expert search you can narrow down the search results by creating more specific search requests.

Data records in bibliographic/catalogue databases of the COBISS system are created by librarians. Basic types of material available for inquiries are:

  • serials,
  • articles,
  • e-books,
  • audio books,
  • sound recordings,
  • video recordings and motion pictures,
  • e-video,
  • cartographic material,
  • printed and manuscript music,
  • graphics,
  • toys – objects,
  • performed works.

Records can also include links to full texts.

COBISS+ is intended for all looking for information on material or material available in the libraries.

COBISS+ is freely available.

All users can search the COBIB shared catalogue of libraries (default setting), local databases and most other databases without restrictions. The search is restricted in some foreign databases because of licence agreements with providers; an authorised user login is required.

The following specialized university portals are available in COBISS+:

The portals are adapted to university environments for searching and accessing contents as wall as to other tools and accessories offered by the libraries, as administrators of the portals, to their students, professors, researchers and other interested users for the purposes of supporting the educational process.

COBISS+ also acts as an information discovery tool, which is essential for users of academic and research institutions in Slovenia. Integrated index of electronic resources includes several hundred millions of records for articles, e-journals, e-books, research reports, conference contributions, audio and video contents, etc. from various publishers (Elsevier, Wiley, Springer Nature, etc.), aggregators (EBSCO, ProQuest, etc.), database providers (Web of Science, Scopus, etc.) and digital repositories from all over the world. This means that students, researchers and other users of COBISS+ have access to searching open-access and licenced electronic contents from all areas of sciences with links to material (including complete texts).

Access to licenced contents subscribed to by Slovene libraries separately or with consortium agreements is enabled based on monitoring the IP of computers and also remotely via COBISS+ login. Open-access contents are freely available to all users with complete texts.

mCOBISS is also available to the users. It is a version of COBISS+ adapted to mobile devices. It utilizes the advantages of modern phones with Android and iOS operating systems. You can get the free app for Android from Google Play, for iOS from iTunes. mCOBISS provides a limited selection of functionalities.

COBISS Digital Repository – dCOBISS

The COBISS Digital Repository – dCOBISS is a new application intended for storing the most common types of digital objects and managing digital contents. It is accessible for all libraries within the COBISS system and fully integrated with all other modules of the COBISS system. To enter contents, the librarian must have at least the privilege for entering holdings data within the Holdings software module. All data stored in the dCOBISS depository is available to library users in the COBISS+ application. Graphic files can be used as covers for individual records displayed in COBISS+, whereas text files are also searchable in full text.

The dCOBISS repository enables academic and research institutions to store open access publications and other information on the projects, from which the publication was financed, information on funders, payers, and open access publication costs. This information is required for open access analytics, required by Slovenian Research and Innovation Agency (ARIS), universities, and other research organisations.

Some of the most important functionalities of the dCOBISS application are:

  • Entering and managing publications (publication version, publication licence, date of publication, embargo)
  • Storing digital objects (files)
  • Managing projects, funders, and payers
  • Supported synchronisation with other local repositories
  • Supported display of covers in COBISS+
  • Indexing text contents for the purposes of searching full texts in COBISS+
  • Connectivity and transition to dCOBISS directly from COBISS3/Cataloguing
  • Option of searching the COBIB union catalogue and the data, stored in dCOBISS

COBISS3 and COBISS Lib – support for business processes in the library

The COBISS3 software and its next generation COBISS Lib provide support for the library's business processes with functionalities in the interconnected segments Acquisitions, Serials, Electronic Resources, Holdings, Loan, Interlibrary Loan, Application Administration (in COBISS3) or Settings and Administration (in COBISS Lib) and Reports.

The Acquisitions software module module consists of the following procedures for acquiring library materials (monographs) and managing financial resources in funds:

  • pre-order selection;
  • purchase, comprising orders, order cancellation, prepayment for and receipt of items ordered, payment of items received and monitoring the funds situation);
  • claims for non-delivered items, received items and received invoices;
  • orders, receipt and delivery of exchange, receipt and delivery of legal deposit copy, receipt of gift and entry of other types of library materials acquisition;
  • maintenance of partner and fund data;
  • sending orders to suppliers by using the EDIFACT Standard;
  • support for joint acquisitions (the library buys material for another, partner library, whereby data is automatically transferred between the databases of both libraries);
  • sending lists of legal deposit material in XML format.

The Serials software module includes all the procedures for acquiring serials and managing financial resources in funds:

  • pre-order selection;
  • purchase, comprising orders with annual and standing orders, order cancellations, prepayment and payment of publications, and monitoring of the funds balance;
  • creation of publication patterns;
  • serials check-in using publication patterns with central recording or recording in individual library departments;
  • claims for missing items or received invoices;
  • receipt and sending of serials based on exchange, receipt and sending of legal deposit copies, receipt of gifts and other types of acquisition;
  • maintenance of data on partners and funds.

The Electronic Resources software module includes procedures for acquiring e-resources (e-books, e-serials, databases, audio books, e-videos, etc.) published on the world wide web or in computer networks as well as procedures for managing financial resources in funds:

  • acquiring e-resources, which includes purchasing packages and licences for individual electronic resources, prepayment and payment of resources, monitoring of the funds balance;
  • links to e-book portals for loan of online resources (e-books, audio books, etc.), which can be connected to the COBISS system (authentication when the member logs in to the portal with My Library password and the transfer of data when purchasing the licence, loaning e-books and returning the e-book to the COBISS system ahead of time);
  • entering the legal deposit of electronic publications;
  • maintenance of data on partners and funds.

The Holdings software module allows complete management of holdings data, including:

  • downloading bibliographic records from the shared bibliographic database into a local database;
  • updating a limited range of bibliographic data;
  • creating and editing holdings data directly in Holdings or automatically from Acquisitions and Serials;
  • printing labels for material while editing holdings data directly to the printer or via report queues;
  • implementing separate procedures with special permits for modifications of only individual holdings data (statuses, availability levels, etc.);
  • forming sets;
  • procedures for serials (publication patterns, serials check-in, etc.);
  • management of the inventory of integrating resources;
  • adding multimedia content;
  • checking and selection of excluded library material;
  • editing data for coordinating the acquisitions of international scientific literature and databases;
  • carrying out an inventory when the library is open or closed;
  • management of textbook fund in school libraries.

The Loan software module enables the following:

  • registering members in the library, online, or by transferring data from the reference database on students; searching, changing data or membership card number, printing labels for membership cards, signing with signature pad and electronic storage of registration forms (membership statements), deleting member data, batch deleting of data on inactive members;
  • lending material outside the library or to the reading room, returning material, entering loss of material, renewing loans and changing due date;
  • reserving available and unavailable material, reserving material for use in the reading room, monitoring and processing reservations of available material, picking up reserved material in different pick-up locations, batch deleting expired reservations;
  • searching material, reviewing material status (available material or material on loan, the details of the member borrowing the material, return date, list of reservations, etc.), and entering notes on material;
  • defining loan parameters (time parameters, calendar, price list, loan restrictions, settings for lending forms, invoices, overdue notices and other parameters);
  • separately managing the loan records by departments, inter-departmental loan (for libraries with loan organised by departments);
  • managing loan records in the mobile library;
  • electronic notifications about a loan period expiry date, the receipt of the forthcoming overdue notice, received material, reservation expiry and membership expiry;
  • creating and sending general and special notifications to members;
  • sending a lending note to the member's e-mail address;
  • support for routing lists for serials;
  • support for equipment loan;
  • creating overdue notices;
  • financial management system with the option of manual or automatic recording of debts, debt settlement (cash or otherwise), closing out cash register, printout of various receipts for members, etc.

The Interlibrary Loan software module includes all the procedures in which the library acts as a library ordering materials from other libraries, and all the procedures in which the library acts as a library supplying materials from its own collection. The module allows:

  • entering received ILL requests;
  • processing received COBISS3/ILL orders (received from other libraries using the COBISS3/Interlibrary Loan software module, which are automatically saved in the database for ILL requests);
  • processing received COBISS+ orders (library members orders received from COBISS+, which are automatically saved in the ILL database);
  • accessing home library catalogue and reservation of home library material;
  • ordering material from the supplier or the library closed stacks, re-ordering, forwarding orders;
  • cancelling orders from the supplier or internal orders;
  • recording the receipt of material from the supplier or the home library material;
  • delivering material to a customer;
  • returning customer material and returning material to the supplier or to the library closed stacks;
  • preparing different notifications for customers and suppliers;
  • exchanging messages about open orders for interlibrary loan with subscribers (members) via COBISS+.

The Reports software module is intended for the preparation of various types of reports (e.g. lists, statistics), the printing and sending of prepared reports, the preparation of the content of reports where this is possible, and the determination of the way data is classified in statistics. Reports are prepared on the basis of data from all software modules of the COBISS3 and COBISS Lib software - from bibliographic and authority databases and from local application databases. Types of reports in this software module:

  • reports from bibliographic and authority databases (reports of records in COMARC, ISBD, GARE, etc.);
  • reports from business applications (Acquisitions, Serials, Holdings, Loan, Interlibrary Loan, Application Administration):
    • statistics (for loan, interlibrary loan and acquisition, for holdings, etc.);
    • statistical reports based on user-defined classifications adapted by the library to its needs (in loan and for holdings);
    • documents (order in acquisition or for an interlibrary loan, invoice, delivery note, various types of notifications and claims, lending form, checking to coordinate acquisitions, etc.);
    • internal documents and lists (accession book, list of de-accessioned material, list of call numbers, internal order, routing list for serials, list of members with with material on loan, inventory reports, etc.);
    • labels (for material, member library cards, with partners’ addresses).

Data export for further processing is also a part of this software module.

The Application Administration is a software module which allows libraries:

  • maintenance of data on home libraries and partner,
  • reviewing data on the system users.

In COBISS Lib, the functions of the Application Administration software module are included in the Settings and Administration software module. It has added functions for:

  • editing settings (local code lists, queue editor, setting destinations, etc.),
  • review of personal data processing,
  • notification and monitoring of messages and notifications;
  • access to technical information (viewing errors on the server, activity log, etc.).

Other applications

Web application Bibliographies enables you to prepares different versions of reports for personal bibliographies from the COBISS system and the SICRIS system based on bibliographic units of authors processed in the COBISS system. In the COBISS system you can prepare a report of personal bibliographies for any author or serial. In the SICRIS system you can prepare a personal or group bibliography, bibliography evaluated with the ARIS (Slovenian Research and Innovation Agency) methodology, reports required for electing into academic titles at universities and citation reports (e.g. for research organisations, project groups etc.). By selecting input parameters you can create different reports.

Most read books is a web application that allows preparing the list of most frequently borrowed items within a certain period of time (based on loan statistics of libraries with automated circulation).

Library royalties is a web application that allows the preparation of lists – loan statistics for library material by authors who are eligible to receive monetary library royalties based on the number of loans of their works (according to the criteria specified by the competent government body). In the COBISS.SI system, the Rules on Implementing Library Royalties, adopted by the Ministry of Culture, apply (lists have been prepared based on bibliographic records from the COBIB.SI database, authority records for personal names from the CONOR.SI database, as well as archival data on loans in public libraries in a specific period).

Z39.50 server, SRW/SRU server allows users to access bibliographic databases in the COBISS system based on a specific agreement with the national COBISS centre (for accessing the COBIB shared database) or with the individual library (for accessing its local database).

The LDAP server enables libraries to authenticate library users when using their information services.

The SIP2 server enables the installation of devices that aid the lending process, i.e. self-checkout, answering machines and other devices that support SIP2 protocol.

Protection of rights of the participating institutions

Rights of the participating institutions are governed by international conventions and directives issued by the European Union, by the Copyright Act and related rights acts, by the Industrial Property Act, by the Competition Act and by mutual agreements.

In accordance with the above, the national COBISS centre has the copyright on the COBIB shared bibliographic database as a whole, as a compilation of data, but at the same time does not claim the copyright on any of the records in this database. The data on the record creator and the institution contributing such record is permanently stored in the COBIB shared bibliographic database.

Participants and/or users of the individual COBISS system are not permitted without the prior written consent by the national COBISS centre to download machine-readable records from the COBISS system to other databases and automation systems of library local functions, or use them for selling purposes. Participants are free to use their records, created by themselves, without limitations only for purposes that do not jeopardise the integrity and conception of the development of the individual COBISS system. Records, taken from COBIB and downloaded to other databases and systems must have the record creator’s user name and the COBISS symbol attached to them, which means that they come from the COBIB database.

When using other databases, offered by the national COBISS centre under special agreements with their producers/providers, the restrictions from these agreements must prevail.

The owner of the copyright on COBISS software and manuals is IZUM. COBISS, COMARC, COBIB, COLIB and CONOR are registered trademarks owned by IZUM.

It is the responsibility of each national COBISS centre to protect personal information in the COBISS system, in that it prevents illegal and inappropriate use of personal data.

Users' technical support

Technical support by IZUM is available to COBISS software users in Slovenia and to national COBISS centres within the network from 7.30 to 20.00, Mondays to Fridays, and from 7.30 to 13.00, Saturdays, via telephone +386 (0)2 2520 333.

E-mail support is available at

Professional help to the libraries outside Slovenia is provided by their national COBISS centres.

March 2024