Fred Guy

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 »
Feb 052014

SUNCAT is based on the bibliographic serials records of a Contributing Library and the associated holdings.  In order to create a clean search result, the records for the same title are put into one set, with the holdings for all records visible at the point of display attached to the best bibliographic record (preferred record). This means that the user, having located a journal in the database, is shown a coherent display of all the holdings information for the contributing libraries.

Building a union catalogue therefore involves establishing which of the submitted records from Contributing Libraries should be matched as they represent the same entity.  The outcome is the creation of a large number of sets, with each set containing all the matched bibliographic records submitted by the Contributing Libraries, along with the associated holdings information. Where there is no match of a record with any other submitted record, the set will contain one record.

Updating a union catalogue involves running a complex set of processes.  The key steps are the following:

1.    For each incoming record the identification of records already in the database for possible matching with each incoming record.  Possible matched records are copied into the ‘Candidate Pool’. The selection of candidates involves utilising 3 direct indexes (LCCN, ISSN/ISBN and a keyword index (normalised index)

2.    Running of processes to ascertain with which records (if any) in the candidate pool the incoming record matches.   This involves running a matching algorithm which compares key elements (title, ISSN etc.) in the incoming record with each record in the candidate pool and assigning numerical values depending on whether or not there is a match between the data elements.  The values for each element are totalled and, when the pre-determined threshold  value is reached, a match is declared.   The matched records are held in the ‘Matched documents buffer’. More information on the matching algorithm is provided here. 

3.    Recording the details of matched records held in the ‘Matched documents buffer’ on the incoming record and the record(s) already in the database.  This is done by each record in the database having an associated table (z120) and this contains information such as the number of records with which it has matched and the system numbers for these matched records.

EDINA had requested some improvements to the processes used to carry out the above and these improvements were included in the Aleph version 20 upgrade carried out in late 2013.  The specific improvements are:

·         New Candidates Pool Size Parameter.  The allowed values are now between 100 and 500.  This has been initially set at 250 meaning that if 250 or fewer records are identified, the process moves onto the matching stage.  If more than 250 candidates are identified the software deems the incoming record not to match and it therefore becomes a single record set.  

·       Candidate Pool Common titles. A new routine has been added to help reduce the number of candidate titles.  All candidate titles are compared with a list of common titles and if there is a match the candidate title is excluded from the candidate pool.

·         Matched Documents Buffer. The size of this has been increased from 100 to 500.  This expansion is necessary as the number of SUNCAT Contributing Libraries increases.

As part of the ongoing SUNCAT software redevelopment, work has already begun on the design of a new, improved matching algorithm.  More information on the approach being taken will be given in a future blog posting. 

 February 5, 2014  Posted by at 3:16 pm Uncategorized No Responses »
Oct 292013

We are delighted to announce that updating of the database has been started after the upgrading of the Aleph software from version 18 to version 20.  The upgrading means that the service is able to take advantage of development work carried out on our behalf by Ex Libris.  Amongst other things the matching has been improved.

It took much longer than anticipated to complete the upgrading process and consequently there is a rather large backlog of files holding updating information.  Every effort will be made to bring the database up-to-date as quickly as possible and, as usual, there will be weekly blog posts listing which Contributing Libraries have been updated in the previous 7 days.

 October 29, 2013  Posted by at 2:12 pm Developments 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 »
Jul 262013

The SUNCAT software is about to be upgraded from Aleph 500 version 18 to Aleph 500 version 20.  This will provide more functionality such as improved matching of records.

There will be no disruption to the service provided to users during the time the server is being upgraded as the service will run on another server, normally used to as a backup server.

We will not be updating SUNCAT with files from Contributing Libraries during this period but once the upgrading is complete every effort will then be made to load the accumulated backlog as quickly as possible.

Once we know when updating can recommence we will pass on that information.

 July 26, 2013  Posted by at 2:32 pm News No Responses »
Jul 032013

UK Research Reserve (UKRR), a collaborative programme between the HE sector and the British Library (BL), aims to preserve research material for the community and build up a national research collection in a time of rapid change. By de-duplicating low-use research material together, UKRR members (29 HEIs, led by Imperial College London, details can be found on UKRR’s website: are able to dispose of print journals and repurpose newly available space to better meet local demands, without losing access to the content. So far, UKRR members have released more than 70km of shelf space, or 10,700 square metres, and it is estimated that more than £21m capital savings and £8m estate management costs have been achieved.

The HE-BL partnership is supported by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE). It started with an 18-month pilot phase which proved the concept and set the foundation for the programme. Its success resulted in HEFCE’s further investment of £10m to expand the scheme nationally and to encourage more HEIs to take part. UKRR has been further awarded an extension of 12 months to January 2015; it enables us to de-duplicate more material, improve our data, and explore potential opportunities.

The collaborative and coordinated approach we have adopted aims to identify one ‘access copy’ (normally held by the British Library) and two preservation copies distributed amongst the membership. To achieve this, one of the processes we put in place is called scarcity checking (i.e. a process designed to determine if an item offered by one member is available elsewhere within the membership, and if so, at which institutions ), and the collaboration with EDINA helps streamline work flow and save time and staff resources required in the process. Initially, the scarcity checking was conducted by each member institution as they offered holdings to UKRR for de-duplication. It was time consuming and prone to errors and inaccuracy.

A successful pilot was run between the University of Edinburgh (one of UKRR members) UKRR and EDINA. EDINA developed a script which triggered an automatic process to accept a file of records submitted by a UKRR member for searching against the whole SUNCAT database and the local catalogues of the two UKRR libraries which are not SUNCAT Contributing Libraries. This collaboration has contributed to the quality of the data we process, helped reduce associated risks and significantly reduced the time required for checking in member libraries. As a result we have more reliable data to base our final de-duplication decisions on.

UKRR’s work with its partners is key to the programme’s success, and such collaborations further demonstrate synergies that can be created when the community work together. We value the work that EDINA has done for us, and we look forward to continuing working with EDINA and to bringing benefits and values to the community.

Daryl Yang, UKRR Manager