EDINA has embarked on a programme to redevelop the existing SUNCAT search platform. The impetus for this redevelopment emerged from a long held desire to not only provide enhanced functionality but also to be able to be more responsive to user feedback regarding suggested improvements.
Work commenced on the first phase of this development in spring 2012 as EDINA developers started to design and implement an entirely new bespoke user interface for the SUNCAT service.
In this initial development phase SUNCAT will continue to rely on Ex Libris’ Aleph software to load and de-duplicate contributing libraries’ serials records. The web interface however, will be developed in-house leveraging the open source enterprise search platform, Solr to facilitate highly efficient searching across the millions of SUNCAT records.
The developers considered a number of options to facilitate record searching, but Solr proved to be the best solution for dealing with the complex issues around searching and displaying records grouped into matched sets, a central component of the SUNCAT service. Moving to this open source platform should allow EDINA to have greater control and flexibility over the functionality and presentation of SUNCAT.
One key area of improvement, which will be available from the outset, is the ability to limit search results restricted to holdings from multiple libraries and locations. These limits will include all the individual locations of each of our contributing libraries, rather than just locations at an institutional level as with the current service. Another benefit will be that users will be able to select multiple locations and/or institutions to limit their search by, so giving them great flexibility. The limits will now also ensure that users only see the holdings from locations or institutions they are interested in, as any extraneous holdings will no longer be displayed. These improvements mean that in the future EDINA will be able to provide customised views onto the service, configurable at both the individual user level, and also at a higher geographic, subject specialist or consortial level.
The improvements to the geographic limits are particularly important for the mobile application which is also currently in development. EDINA conducted some early user testing with a small group of volunteers earlier in the year and it is hoped that a beta version will be made more widely available early in 2013.
Other key areas of new functionality will follow throughout the next year. The SUNCAT team have identified a wish list of features based on user feedback and also on a survey of some of the best functionality available in commercial search engines, library and union catalogues in the UK, Europe and beyond.
The feedback and survey also informed the design brief for the redeveloped service. Having considered a number of designs the SUNCAT team have narrowed the selection down to a few favoured options and we are currently consulting with our contributing libraries to decide on the final design.
It is hoped that a beta version of the new platform will be available in spring 2013, when we will be asking our users to provide feedback on progress. We hope that you will approve of the changes to come!