Mar 132014

The new interface for SUNCAT became publicly available in October 2013.  Since then we have been running it in parallel with the Aleph interface (termed Original SUNCAT) to allow users to gain familiarity with the new interface and make it easy to switch between the two versions.   We feel now that users have gained familiarity with the new interface and we are ready to make it the primary means of accessing the SUNCAT database.  Accordingly, from Friday 14th March , the Landing page, which at present currently provides the main way of accessing both services will no longer be available in its present form.  Please note that it may take a day or so for the changes to take place throughout the World Wide Web.  On linking to the page ( users will be taken directly to the new interface.  All the information tabs available on the Landing page (About; For Librarians; Help & Support; News and Events) are available on the new interface.  The button on the new interface, Original SUNCAT, providing access to the Aleph interface, will remain for a limited period.

We have received much informal positive feedback on the new interface but are planning to carry out a survey of the new interface in early April.   Once we have had time to analyse the returns and act on any critical points raised, we intend to remove Original SUNCAT from public availability and provide all access to the SUNCAT database entirely through the new interface.  We anticipate moving to exclusive access via the new interface at the beginning of June 2014.

 March 13, 2014  Posted by at 2:59 pm News Tagged with: ,  No Responses »
Oct 292013

Those working on SUNCAT are very excited with the progress which has been made with the development of the new interface and we are delighted to announce that it is now available at:

Earlier posts on this blog highlighted some of the improved functionality which will be available on the new interface.

The new interface has been developed on an open-source search platform, Solr, which has provided us with the flexibility to provide new and enhanced functionality, including:


·         Improved pre-search library and geographic limits: enabling you to focus your search to see only holdings from a particular group of libraries or from a particular geographic location.

·         The ability to combine library, location, format, language and year of

publication pre-search limits to create very specific focused searches.

·         The introduction of post-search filters: enabling you to narrow your

search results by holding library, format, subject, author, date of first

publication, place of publication and language.

·         More integrated information about our Contributing Libraries: from the holdings display you can link to the library website, contact details, Google directions, the British Library code (for inter-library loans) and the date when the library’s data was last updated in SUNCAT.

·         Links to the local catalogues of holding libraries: also available on the

holdings display, enabling you to check information directly at the source.

·         A new look for the interface incorporating a map showing all the various locations of our Contributing Libraries.

To allow everyone time to become familiar with the new interface it will run in parallel with the existing Aleph interface for a period of about 6 months.  We hope that everyone will find it easy and straightforward to use the new interface.  Help text has been provided and we will be making available some ‘Quick Start’ guides and other documentation.  In addition, it is planned to run a series of Workshops in March/April 2014 to demonstrate the functionality available in the new interface and to share with all participants the plans for further developments.

In due course we will be asking for feedback on the new interface but in the meantime we will be delighted to receive any questions and/or comments.

Please send these to:

 October 29, 2013  Posted by at 9:16 am Developments Tagged with:  No Responses »
Jun 062013

This is the second in a series of blog posts highlighting some of the new features which will be available in the redeveloped SUNCAT. In this post we are going to focus on how the post search filters will improve the new service, enabling the use of faceted browsing to lead users to the most relevant journal titles and holdings for their needs.

Post search filters will be available from the search results display, down the left hand side of the results list, and will provide similar functionality as you will be familiar with via other discovery services and many commercial shopping and travel websites.

At this point we plan to include the following facets:

  • Institution (the institutions holding the journals returned in the current results list)
  • Format (includes electronic and print formats)
  • Subject
  • Author (organisation associated with journals where relevant)
  • Publisher
  • Year (first published)
  • Place of publication
  • Language
Each filter will also display the number of records in the results set associated with it. The five most common filters from each result set will display for most of the facets, with the option to view decreasingly common filters also available. However, in the case of the institutions facet, filters will be displayed alphabetically to allow you to skim down the list for particular institutions, and in the year facet, filters will be displayed in reverse chronological order.

You will be able to combine filters to drill right down to journal titles matching quite specific criteria, but you will then also be able to simply remove filters to widen your results back up again.

An interesting side effect of displaying the filters is that it is now possible to easily see the variation present in the records supplied to SUNCAT, which goes a long way to explaining why not all the records which we would like to match together do! Part of the next step of the development work will be to try and amalgamate some of the filters so that they display in a more manageable and helpful fashion. For example combining year filters containing no numerical characters, such as “||||”, “uuuu” etc. into one “Unknown” filter. Also publication place filters such as “london”, “London.”, “London,” etc. into one filter for “London”.

You can see the faceted browsing in action on the preview service which will be available until Monday 13th May, so please take a look and let us have your comments via the online survey or by email to

The following screenshot shows the filters on the preview service:

 June 6, 2013  Posted by at 2:56 pm Developments Tagged with: , , , ,  No Responses »
Jun 062013

Good morning from UKSG 2013! As promised last month the new look SUNCAT is now available for you to preview at

The current service will continue as the primary service for the moment, but we would encourage you to take a look, experiment and let us have your feedback on the new service as soon as you get a chance.

The new service is still in development, so there are still issues to be resolved with keeping it up-to-date, searching and relevancy ranking, but to give you a flavour, the new service:

Integrates information from the website and the actual service more closely, with the search box, a map of our Contributing Libraries and a feed of our latest news all on the homepage

• Enables searching limited to a specific library or selection of libraries: you will only see the serials’ holdings of libraries you have specified in your search

• Enables searching limited to a specific location or selection of locations, all the way from Inverness to Exeter: again you will only see the serials’ holdings in locations you have specified in your search.

• Plus you can combine library and location limits to suit your individual search requirements

• Enables searching limited to electronic or print serials only: helpful if you only want to see what might be immediately available online or conversely if want to see only material likely to be available via Inter-Library Loan.

• Enables filtering of search results by library, location, subject, organisation, publisher, date etc.

• Enables more sophisticated searching via the Advanced Search option

• Allows you to choose how many records you want to display on your search results screen

• Provides an alphabetical list of all the libraries holding a particular serial title

• Allows you to quickly see if holdings are print or electronic

• Opens up further information about each library, including directions, contact details, British Library code and when it was last updated in SUNCAT

If you are attending UKSG, please come along to the EDINA stand 26 and we will be happy to demo the service for you and answer your questions in person. However, you can also let us know what you think or if you have any questions or suggestions via the EDINA helpdesk at

We hope you like what you see!

 June 6, 2013  Posted by at 2:36 pm Developments Tagged with: , , ,  No Responses »
Jun 062013

We’ve been blogging about the new look SUNCAT for a few months now, giving you a look at the new homepage, some background on the technical architecture and also some idea of the new features which will be available. However, we now hope to let you have a preview of the new service itself!

The current service will continue as the primary service until further notice, but you can check out the redeveloped service from 8th April when we preview it at the UKSG Conference (Bournemouth 8-10 April). We will let you know the url on the day and from then on we would encourage you to take a look, experiment and let us have your feedback, good and bad! The service is still in development so the more feedback we can gather at this point the better.

If you are attending UKSG, please come along to the EDINA stand 26 and we will be happy to demo the service for you and answer your questions in person. However, we would also encourage you to let us know what you think or if you have any questions or suggestions via the EDINA helpdesk at

 June 6, 2013  Posted by at 2:10 pm News Tagged with: , ,  No Responses »
Jun 062013

This is the first in a series of blog posts which will highlight some of the new or improved features which will be available in the redeveloped SUNCAT. In this post we are going to focus on how the institutional and geographic limits will improve with the new service in comparison to the current service.

Old SUNCAT: You can only select one institution and/or one location per search.

New SUNCAT: Select as many institutions/locations as you like per search. Also, in the future, we hope to allow you to select and save your preferred group of institutions as your default search preference. We would also hope to set up some pre-selected groupings based on institutional consortia or geographic area. For example these might include UK Research Reserve (UKRR), Scottish Higher Education Digital Library (SHEDL) or Wales, North West England etc.

Old SUNCAT: Only one location (normally the main library) is recorded for each institution on the service, so the geographical location limit is, therefore, not always exact.

New SUNCAT: The new service records all of our contributing institutions’ physical libraries so limiting by location is now much more granular and precise.

Old SUNCAT: You can’t select an institution if it’s outside a location limit you have also selected. For example if you choose to limit your search to the location of “Edinburgh” you cannot then, in addition, select and search on an institution outside Edinburgh, e.g. the University of Glasgow

New SUNCAT: You can combine your limits to create very specific searches tailored for your individual requirements. For example, you can create a search limited to the location of “London” but then also include individual institutions outside London, e.g. University of Oxford.

Old SUNCAT: Although a search with limits applied does only return titles held by that institution or within that location, holdings from other institutions/locations outside of the selected limits will also be displayed.

New SUNCAT: Only holdings within the institutions or locations selected will be returned and displayed, creating a clearer more focussed result and record display.

Naturally, the improved recording of institutions’ individual library locations and the improved functionality of the limits are both vital for the new SUNCAT mobile app which will also be released later this year.

If you have any questions or suggestions about how the limits will work on the new SUNCAT or on the development in general, please contact us at

 June 6, 2013  Posted by at 2:07 pm Developments Tagged with: , ,  No Responses »
Feb 132013

Back in a post in November 2012 we announced that EDINA is redeveloping the existing SUNCAT search platform. We also gave you a preview of the new design and now we want to follow these posts up with more technical information about the new architecture.

New Search Platform

The cornerstone to the SUNCAT service is the ability to search for libraries’ MARC records and we wanted this to be as efficient as possible within the new architecture. We have therefore decided to use the open source enterprise search platform ‘Solr’ from the Apache Software foundation given its popularity and feature set.

We have established a workflow, which exports records from Aleph (currently used for loading and de-duplication of libraries’ serial records) and indexes these records within Solr.

The diagram below illustrates the process:

Individual MARC records are exported from Aleph and these are then grouped into MARC collections. A MARC collection consists of records from the libraries holding a particular serial.

These MARC collections are then indexed in Solr using a modified version of the open source solrmarc code.

Currently the Solr index consists of over 5 million individual library MARC records and in terms of storage sizes, this equates to over 30GB on disk.

New Interface

Storing all of the records in Solr however is only part of the new architecture. We are developing a new user interface for the SUNCAT service, taking the opportunity to also incorporate some new features that exploit the power of Solr.

A combination of the Java programming language, Groovy programming language and the Grails framework has been chosen as the software stack as it enables a rapid development process and also leverages the experience of developers within EDINA.

Grails follows the highly popular software design pattern of Model View Controller, which allows separation of concerns and a clean software design.

The following diagram illustrates at a very high level the architecture we are using and how Solr is involved:

We are developing a number of ‘controllers’, which are used to process user requests and issue queries to Solr as and when required. These controllers are designed for specific tasks e.g.

• Handling search requests

• Handling API requests

• Handling requests to view details of a specific MARC record etc.

We also have a number of templates that comprise the ‘views’ of the new system. When a controller has completed the processing of the user request and it is ready to return something to the user (e.g. a web page), it uses the relevant template and injects the correct data e.g. the search results. Using a template approach for all of the views of the system provides a huge amount of flexibility as we have full control of all visual aspects of the service and we can even support different output formats based on the user request e.g. supporting HTML, XML, JSON etc.

Enabling Searching at Library Level

We are also spending time in constructing a database to store institution, library and location data and integrating this within the new user interface in-order to allow users to perform more detailed searches within SUNCAT. For example searches can be performed at the library level whereas previously users could only search at the institutional level. We have also tagged every library with its GPS coordinates, which allows us to show all SUNCAT contributing libraries in a map interface and will allow proximity based searching in the forthcoming SUNCAT mobile application for iOS.

We will be keeping you up to date with more posts, about the redevelopment and the mobile app, to follow over the next few months.

SUNCAT is the Serials Union Catalogue for the UK. Visit the service at or the SUNCAT blog at
Feb 072013

We reported in a blog post in November that a new interface for SUNCAT is being developed and since good progress has been made we are keen to share with you more details on what we are doing and perhaps more importantly when we plan to show what has been done. We are working towards having a public preview of the new interface early in April.

Building up to this we will have a blog post next week on the technical architecture which has been adopted. This will be followed by blog posts on the functionality, which will be available initially, and outlining the details for the public preview. We are very keen to find out from our users what they think of the development and accordingly will be asking for feedback after users have had a chance to view the interface.

Future blog posts will include sharing the roadmap of our planned developments until the end of the year and providing information on specific aspects of the technical developments.

It’s clearly a busy time for us but we feel that it is time and effort well spent as we will be in a position to develop and implement requested functionality much more quickly than we have been able to in the past.

 February 7, 2013  Posted by at 12:24 pm Developments Tagged with: , , ,  No Responses »
Nov 282012

As part of the SUNCAT Redevelopment we reported on last week, we will be introducing a new contemporary design for the SUNCAT web interface.

A number of designs were produced by EDINA’s in-house designer, based on a design brief submitted by the SUNCAT team based on

Feedback suggested that the current design was well liked but was starting to look somewhat dated so some key elements of the brief included:

  • Keeping the SUNCAT logo and colours for continuity
  • Keeping the search functionality at the heart of the design
  • Incorporating other elements of the site into the search homepage to reflect a more portal style approach
  • Trying to keep the design clean and simple.

After the initial set of designs was discussed and adapted by the SUNCAT team, the selection was narrowed to two preferred designs which were then circulated to EDINA colleagues for comment.

We were then keen to consult our SUNCAT contributors to involve them in the final selection and to gather feedback which could be incorporated into the ultimate design. A short online survey was made available to SUNCAT contributing libraries for a week at the beginning of November. Sixty responses were received in total, from at least 26 different libraries.

Seventy-two percent of respondents preferred the design displayed below, one percent liked both designs equally and happily none of the respondents reported that they didn’t like either design. The main reasons for preferring the design below included:

  • Simpler, cleaner and more user friendly
  • Preferred colours and images
  • Layout of search and filters on the screen
  • Having a map of contributing libraries and a newsfeed easily accessible on the homepage
New Design for SUNCAT Interface

We will now be looking at some of the suggestions on how to improve the design, such as:

  • Changing the colour of the “Find Now” to better differentiate it from the limit options
  • Moving the Advanced Search and Browse buttons closer to the main search box
  • Moving the Reset button to beneath the “Find Now” button.
The new design will form part of the beta release of the new platform in spring 2013, please let us know if you have any comments about SUNCAT’s new look in the meantime.
SUNCAT is the Serials Union Catalogue for the UK. Visit the service at
 November 28, 2012  Posted by at 11:56 am Developments Tagged with: , ,  No Responses »
Nov 212012

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!

SUNCAT is the Serials Union Catalogue for the UK. Visit the service at
 November 21, 2012  Posted by at 4:30 pm Developments Tagged with: , , , , ,  No Responses »