COBISS Platform – Co-operative Online Bibliographic System and Services
In the information society, libraries are indespensable 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 COBISS.Net network.
COBISS.SI, COBISS.SR, COBISS.MK, COBISS.BH+COBISS.RS, COBISS.CG, COBISS.BG and COBISS.AL are designations for the autonomous library information systems that are being built in individual countries (Slovenia, Serbia, Macedonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Bulgaria and Albania). There are two systems in Bosnia and Herzegovina, because in 2013 one of its two constituent units (Republic of Srpska) decided to establish the autonomous system COBISS.RS. In Albania, the COBISS.AL system is currently being built without the cooperation of the National Library.
The Agreement on the establishment of the COBISS.Net network and the free exchange of bibliographic records, created in autonomous library information systems of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Macedonia, Slovenia and Serbia was signed in 2003. In 2006, the aforementioned Agreement was also signed in the name of Bulgarian libraries by the Bulgarian National Library. By signing special statements in 2013, the provisions of the Agreement were also indirectly accepted by a group of libraries from Albania. The National Libraries of Albania and Kosovo have been repeatedly invited to participate in the COBISS.Net project, but have so far rejected it. The interests of the majority of other libraries are beyond dispute.
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,
- adequately skilled cataloguers,
- linking of libraries via computer and communications network.
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.
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 Albania, for which the tasks of the national COBISS centre are currently carried out by IZUM.
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 Education, Science and Sport). Among other things, the membership fee includes a fee for using the COBISS software.
COBISS3 is the third generation of software for library automation and access to various databases, developed and maintained by IZUM. On the server side, servers with Windows operating system and Java-based application servers are used. For the needs of a back-end database, the Oracle relation database is used on the servers with the Linux operating system. On the client side, as well, Java-based applications are used, which allows workplaces at the libraries to be provided with personal computers or laptops with different operating systems (mostly Windows, some also Linux and MacOS). For the COBISS3 software to run smoothly, corresponding newer personal computers and with at least 256 kb/s Internet access are suitable.
Highlights of the COBISS3 software architecture:
- graphical user interfaces,
- data entry and search also in Cyrillic script,
- use of UNICODE Standard (ISO 10646),
- flexibility in terms of implementation outside Slovenia,
- minimum dependence on operating systems and hardware.
The COBISS3 software supports functions of various libraries and national COBISS centres with the option of selecting the user interface in several languages (Slovenian, Serbian, Bosnian, Macedonian, Bulgarian, Albanian and English).
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 COBISS.Net 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 (monographs, 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/OPAC 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, data is entered to local databases and is updated simultaneously in the COBIB shared bibliographic database. Concurrently with this, indexing by using about 100 search indexes for bibliographic, authority and holdings 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, he/she downloads it to the local database and adds the relevant copy-specific holdings data. If it does not, he/she can download the record from the COBISS.Net network or from some other foreign database, or creates 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 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. locations, internal designations), 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 can be performed only by specialised librarians – cataloguers, because their work also influences the work of other libraries and cataloguers within the system.
Cataloguers who wish to participate in the shared cataloguing process, and create and edit bibliographic records for the needs of a shared database must:
- have a university degree in library science or a university degree in another discipline and a proficiency exam in librarianship;
- successfully complete training courses for shared cataloguing; and
- by the prescribed procedure, obtain necessary permits/privileges to catalogue specific types of library materials.
These requirements do not apply to cataloguers who only download bibliographic records from the COBIB shared database into their local database. These cataloguers have to attend, however, a course for records downloading 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 the national COBISS centres in agreement with their respective National Libraries.
COBISS/OPAC is a web application that allows libraries and end users to access:
- bibliographic databases, i.e. union catalogues, within the COBISS system (COBIB and local databases);
- other COBISS databases (COLIB, CORES, CONOR, ELINKS, SGC);
- some specialised databases (of local and foreign database providers);
- databases residing on remote Z39.50 servers.
As a rule, access to foreign databases is regulated under consortium agreements with database providers; some databases are freely available. For example, based on consortium agreements, the following databases are available to users in the COBISS.SI system:
- OCLC FirstSearch databases (WorldCat, ArticleFirst, ProceedingsFirst, etc.);
- Impact factor databases – Journal Citation Reports (JCR SE, JCR SSE);
- Impact factor databases – SNIP (Source Normalized Impact per Paper);
- Library of Congress Authority File (LC/NAF).
When searching bibliographic and catalogue databases in the COBISS system, the search techniques are adapted to various skill levels of users (Basic search mode, Advanced search mode and Expert search mode).The Basic search mode enables searching by words or phrases, and the search results are sorted by relevance. The Advanced search enables searching by 27 search fields – additional search indexes. The Expert search allows you to search with the SELECT command, which enables the use of Boolean operators (and, or, not) and proximity operators (with, near, subfield). You can display the list of terms appearing in the database, truncate search terms (words and phrases), limit the search by language and type of material, sort the search results, etc. There are three record display formats for bibliographic data (Full, ISBD and COMARC), one format for summary holdings data and one format for copy-specific holdings data.
Search strategies used in searching other databases match the characteristics of these databases; nevertheless, the searching is implemented via the same user interface.
Users can download records from the COBIB database for personal use in compliance with conditions of use; libraries can download records for the use in local library applications in compliance with the provisions of special agreements.
If a library has its loan automated through the use of COBISS software, information on the availability of any item (as to whether an item is on loan or not, loan period) is provided through COBISS/OPAC. Users can use the system to view their loan history, renew the loan period, reserve items, place an interlibrary order, check their outstanding balance of current debts, pay their outstanding debts with Moneta (only in COBISS.SI), and subscribe to electronic notification services.
mCOBISS, a mobile version of COBISS/OPAC, is also available to users. The application makes use of the advantages of smartphones, based on Android (e.g. Samsung Galaxy, Sony Xperia, HTC One) or iOS (iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch) system. You can download the application free of charge in the Google Play online store for Androids and in the iTunes online store for iOS. If the application is not compatible with the mobile device or if the user does not want to download the application, they can use the online version of mCOBISS. mCOBISS enables users to:
- search for material;
- view material on loan and renew loan period;
- reserve material, view and cancel reservations;
- view loan history;
- view debts and restrictions;
- receive e-notifications;
- search/view information on libraries;
- display library location on a map and directions on how to get to the selected library;*
- view most read books;
- create their own list of favourite books;*
- read barcodes (ISBN and ISSN);*
- save their user profile (favourite libraries and login details);*
- transfer information on material.*
(* available only in Android and iOS applications)
When dealing with the local applications, a great deal of attention has been given to the uniformity of data entry and the display of local data intended for end users. The uniformity has been provided to a great extent by the COMARC/H format for holdings data. Besides, prior to including an individual library in the system, the national COBISS centre and the respective library agree on how to enter local data. The data entry is adapted so as to render an end-user as friendly presentation as possible, and at the same time preserve the uniqueness of the work organisation in any of these libraries.
The COBISS3/Acquisitions software module consists of the following procedures for acquiring library materials (monographs) and managing financial resources in funds:
- pre-order selection (recording and processing of acquisition requests);
- purchase, comprising orders (standard orders, pre-orders, on approval orders, blanket orders), order cancellation, prepayment for and receipt of items ordered, payment of items received (receipt of invoices and monitoring of the funds balance);
- 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, and setting-up of counters;
- sending orders to suppliers by using the EDIFACT Standard;
- sending lists of legal deposit material in XML format and preparing lists after receipt.
The COBISS3/Serials software module includes all the procedures for acquiring serials and managing financial resources in funds:
- pre-order selection;
- purchase, comprising orders (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, and setting-up of counters.
The COBISS3/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;
- updating local code lists;
- creating and editing holdings data directly in COBISS3/Holdings or automatically from COBISS3/Acquisitions and COBISS3/Serials;
- forming sets;
- assigning accession numbers and copying holdings data;
- setting up counters for accession numbers, running numbers and loan numbers, and the possibility of setting criteria for automatic selection of counters;
- implementing separate procedures with special permits for minor modifications of holdings data (statuses, availability levels, etc.);
- printing labels by sending them directly to the printer or to the report queue during holdings data editing;
- transferring holdings data between bibliographic records;
- searching for and working with individual holdings data;
- displaying the list of libraries in which a certain bibliographic record is available;
- adding multimedia content.
The COBISS3/Loan software module enables the following:
- entering, searching for and modifying membership card data or numbers, deleting member details and batch deleting data on inactive library members;
- lending material outside the library or to the reading-room, returning, reserving material available and unavailable, reserving material for use in the reading room, renewing loans, changing due date;
- searching for library material, gaining insight into the library material status (availability, the details of the member borrowing the material, return date, list of reservations, etc.), and making notes on library material;
- defining loan parameters (time parameters, calendar, price list, loan restrictions, and other parameters);
- separately managing the loan record by departments, inter-departmental loan (for libraries with the Loan organised by departments);
- electronic notifications about a loan period expiry date, the receipt of the forthcoming overdue notice, received material, reservation expiry and membership expiry;
- routing of serials;
- 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 COBISS3/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:
- processing received COBISS3/ILL orders (received from other libraries using the COBISS3/Interlibrary Loan software module);
- processing received COBISS/OPAC orders (library members orders);
- 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;
- preparing invoices for legal entities – partners acting as customers or payers of the services, and printing the sales ledger;
- notifying (e-mails, SMS messages, etc.) users on received items, non-delivered items and loan period expiry date.
The COBISS3/Reports software module enables generating various reports, which can be printed or sent via e-mail. Reports are prepared on the basis of data from all COBISS3 software modules. Types of reports:
- reports from bibliographic and authority databases (reports of records in COMARC, ISBD, GARE, etc.);
- reports from local application databases (Acquisitions, Serials, Holdings, Loan, Interlibrary Loan):
- statistics (for loan, interlibrary loan and acquisition, for holdings, etc.);
- 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 material on loan, inventory reports, etc.);
- labels (for material, member library cards, with partners’ addresses).
Also, the software module enables data export for further processing.
The COBISS3/Application Administration is a software module which allows libraries:
- maintenance of data on home libraries and partner,
- insight into the data on the system users (linking to the Central Register of Users).
Bibliographies of Researchers is a Web application allowing the preparation of personal bibliographies of researchers provided that beside standard bibliographic data the COBIB database records also include the unique ID (researcher's code) of the author and the designation of the type of bibliographic unit, according to the valid typology of documents/works for bibliography management within the COBISS system. By selecting the entry parameters, several different types of reports can be prepared. In Slovenia, some of the functions of this application have already been integrated in the Slovenian current research information system, i.e. SICRIS and are used to evaluate the bibliographic indicators of research performance.
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).
Public Lending Remuneration Scheme is a web application that allows the preparation of the lists of borrowed items (i.e. loan statistics) by authors who receive payment under the criteria of the competent state authority for loans of their works by public libraries. In the COBISS.SI system, the Rules on Implementing Public Lending Right Remuneration, adopted by the Ministry of Culture, apply. (Lists have been prepared on the basis of bibliographic records from the COBIB.SI shared bibliographic database, authority records for personal names from the CONOR.SI authority database, as well as on the historic statistics of loans in public libraries over a certain period of time.)
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.
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 bear the record creator’s user name and the COBISS symbol attached to them, which means that they are COBIB-derived records.
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.
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.
Technical support by IZUM is available to COBISS software users in Slovenia and to national COBISS centres within the COBISS.Net network from 7.30 to 21.00, Mondays to Fridays, and from 7.30 to 13.00, Saturdays, via telephone + 386 (0)2 2520 333, or e-mail:firstname.lastname@example.org
Professional help to the libraries outside Slovenia is rendered by their national COBISS centres.
© IZUM, January 2014
Institut informacijskih znanosti
(Institute of Information Science)
2000 Maribor, Prešernova 17, Slovenia