In 1966 the Inter-Provincial Committee on University Rationalization (IPCUR) was established at the insistence of Western premiers, under the auspices of the Prairie Provinces Economic Council. The intention was the purposeful management of growth within the context of dramatic societal change. While still at the mid-pointof the post-war boom, governments and their agencies were becoming acutely conscious of their inability to support university costs at the rate of increase which had prevailed over the previous few years. IPCUR’s mandate was to conduct a continuing study on how to develop and coordinate opportunities for higher education consonant with the resources of the prairie provinces, and to make recommendations to the three provincial governments….Its membership included the presidents of each university, and representatives from each province named by the appropriate minister of education.

Issues associated with library growth and costs surfaced at the initial meeting of the Committee (and held a prominent place on everyagenda thereafter). In order to best respond to this new IPCUR imperative, regional library administrators thought it best to come together, and early in 1967 they created the Council of Western Canadian University Librarians (COWCUL). At their first meeting onFebruary 13, 1967 they agreed ‘…that an investigation should be made into the ways and means of increasing cooperation among university libraries in Western Canada, particularly in respect tothe co-ordination of purchasing programmes and the rapid transmission of information and library resources.’ Later this intention was incorporated into the ‘Constitution’ of the body. Early articlese numerated their role as: ‘…being a medium for information exchangeand a focal point for liaison among prairie universities on matters pertaining to library collection development and a means for the formulation and pursuit of positive programmes for the rationalization of collection development in member institutions.

COWCUL later evolved into the Council of Prairie UniversityLibraries (COPUL) which later became the Council of Prairie and Pacific University Libraries (COPPUL). These latter two groups were the legacy of the IPCUR initiative–and can boast of a record of cooperative achievement.

Source: E. Ingles. “Some aspects of library development in Western Canada and their relations with the National Library of Canada.” in The National Library of Canada and Canadian Libraries: Essays in Honour of Guy Sylvestre. Ottawa, CLA and ASTED, 1996.

In 1971, the British Columbia university librarians formed theirown cooperative group (TRIUL), and withdrew from COWCUL. The prairie university libraries then formalized as the Council of Prairie University Libraries (COPUL). In 1989, however, a joint meeting of COPUL and TRIUL members took place in Victoria, BC. Commonality of purpose and recognition of the value of cooperation and collaboration, particularly in times of scarce resources, led the university libraries to continue the joint meetings and the development of shared projects.


In 1991, the Western Canada university libraries formalized as the Council of Prairie and Pacific University Libraries (COPPUL) with 13 members, including the new University of Northern British Columbia, which only officially opened in 1994.

After the development of a strategic planning process in COPPUL, a Project Officer, Hazel Fry, was hired in 1992. Her position was later titled Executive Director and she served in that capacity until her retirement in 2001. COPPUL Directors since then have been:

  • Alexander (Sandy) Slade: 2001-2011
  • Gwen Bird: 2011-2014
  • Andrew Waller: 2014-2016
  • Kristina McDavid: 2016-2019
  • Vivian Stieda: 2019-


The membership is composed of university libraries in the provinces of Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, and British Columbia.


In part due to the increasing emphasis within COPPUL on consortial acquisition of electronic resources and the need to enter into legal license agreements for those, the members applied for and were granted incorporation as a non-profit society under the Canada Corporations Act, effective May 24, 2000. Incorporation was registered with the name: The Council of Prairie and Pacific University Libraries.

In 2013, COPPUL revised its by-laws and changed its governance structure to conform with the revised Canada Not-for-Profit Corporations Act. A smaller, streamlined Board of Directors has been in place from October 2013 to the present.