Union catalogues have been part of the library scene for many years, during which there has been renewed interest as a result of the emergence of the networked environment. This paper presents the results of a study of the use and users of union catalogues which was undertaken as a part of a larger study of interoperability between physical and virtual union catalogues in the UK (http://ccinterop.cdlr.strath.ac.uk). The research sought to improve our understanding of the way in which people searched union catalogues, and to discover something of their preferences and expectations.
The paper reports the aims of the research, the methods used, and some of the results achieved. The results and their implications are then discussed.
The context of this research was a project to investigate the feasibility of linking the physical union catalogue COPAC with the virtual union catalogue, the socalled clumps, which have been developed in the UK over the past decade. The project was known as CC-interop (COPAC, clumps interoperability) and full reports can be located at http://ccinterop.cdlr.strath.ac.uk. COPAC is a physical union catalogue of 27 national and university libraries which was developed and maintained at the University of Manchester (http://copac.ac.uk). It was created by a process of record merging, which has been described elsewhere (Cousins, 1997). Various virtual OPACS have been created in the UK using Z39.50 technology to enable simultaneous searching of one or more OPACs. The clumps relevant to this project are CAIRNS, the Cooperative Academic Information Retrieval Network for Scotland (http://cairns.lib.gla.ac.uk); InforM25, the virtual union catalogue of the London region (http://www.m25lib.ac.uk); and RIDING, the virtual union catalogue of the Yorkshire region (http://riding.hostedbyfdi.net/riding.indexhtml). The research reported here was undertaken by CERLIM, alongside technical investigations undertaken by the CC-interop partners, and concentrated on user behaviour and attitudes to union catalogues. Using recorded searches, interviews and focus groups it complemented earlier questionnaire- based investigations undertaken by Stubley and others (Stubley and Kidd, 2002).