Natasha Aburrow-Jones

Jul 262019

It is time to say goodbye to all the SUNCAT Contributing Libraries, researchers and users (but we are still around until 5pm on the 31st July – so carry on using us until then!). We have been a long time running (“old and reliable” has been one description), and it is now time to hand over the baton of the national union catalogue to the National Bibliographic Knowledgebase. SUNCAT has been the serials union catalogue for the UK research community, delivered by EDINA on behalf of Jisc.

SUNCAT has enabled researchers, students, librarians and others to locate serials held in libraries across the UK. The catalogue contains information on both electronic and print serials (and in other formats!), including journals, periodicals, newspapers, magazines, newsletters, annual reports and other publications of a continuing nature. SUNCAT also contains high quality bibliographic records, which allows libraries to upgrade their own catalogues, and offers other services such as personalised searches and a serial comparison holding tool.

In 2003, a two year tender was awarded to EDINA to create and maintain a National Union Catalogue of Serials. Ex Libris were project partners with EDINA: Ex Libris supplied the Library Management System Aleph that underpinned SUNCAT for many years. In addition, representatives from a selection of libraries holding large serials collections worked closely with the project team as early contributors and associate partners.

SUNCAT was moved from project to service in 2007, and has been steadily growing since then. In 2016, the final work on the service was completed: in the previous couple of years, we had designed a new front and back end, moving away from Aleph to a bespoke system that allowed more flexibility with searching, refining, matching, to create an improved and more user friendly catalogue. Our ingest process was speeded up considerably, allowing SUNCAT to increase the number of Contributing Libraries with no fear of not making our SLA targets.  

By the end of service, SUNCAT contains:

·         The bibliographic records and holdings of 120 Contributing Libraries, including the data sets from CONSER, the ISSN, and the Directory of Open Access Journals.

·         A database containing over 10 million serials bibliographic records and associated holdings.

·         Nearly 87 million records ever loaded into the SUNCAT database, over the lifetime of the service.

·         Contributing Libraries including the National Libraries, the Copyright Libraries, many University libraries and specialist libraries.

·         Specialist libraries cover all subject areas, from the British Film Institute, through to the Institute of Cancer Research, Lambeth Palace and the Wiener Library for the Study of the Holocaust and Genocide.

·         Data received in all sorts of formats (lots of acronyms coming up!): AACR, AACR2, AACR2r, RDA, MARC21, UKMARC, USMARC, XML, MARCXML, Word documents, Access databases, Excel spreadsheets – and anything else (including combinations of the above)… and are all normalised into MARC21 in a MARCXML wrapper.

·         On average, SUNCAT receives between 60 and 70 updates a month.

·         The physical libraries range from the North of Scotland (Inverness), to the British Antarctic Survey in South Georgia, and the British Antarctic Survey in Rothera.

·         Titles ranging from “A magazine” to “ZZZZZZ” – and everything in-between!

It was decided in 2012 that SUNCAT needed more functionality than was currently being offered by the Aleph interface which had been in use since 2003. The decision was made to bring development in-house, and we had a brilliant team who helped re-design the front end, including the map which showed the physical location of all the SUNCAT Contributing Libraries. Did you ever pull the map out to show the world? You might have noticed our two most remote libraries, based in Antarctica. We even wrote a blog post on them, when the NERC libraries were added to SUNCAT, complete with a picture of the base at Rothera (and obligatory penguins).

Once the work on the front end had been completed, it was clear that the back end also needed redevelopment. This was also done in-house, creating a completely new ingest process based on Solr and zebra databases. As I noted above, it was completed in 2016, and managing updates and loading has been speeded up considerably.


Of course, my final point, and the most important, is to note that none of the work associated with SUNCAT would have been achieved and contributed to its longevity without the input of the SUNCAT Contributing Libraries. Starting off with those who sent their data early, so that we could work out our processes and data streams, to those who have come on board more recently to get a handle on data export, I salute you. Thank you for being part of SUNCAT: we could not have done anything without your belief in what we were trying to achieve, your dedication, your work, and your data! We have loved receiving your data, in whatever format, and I hope that your inclusion in SUNCAT raised the visibility of your holdings through another forum, and that you have enjoyed being part of SUNCAT.


And now it is time for me to sign off, and thank you all again for being part of SUNCAT, and wish you all the best for the future. The past 16 years have been a blast – THANK YOU!


(A picture of my original SUNCAT – Tari sunbathing in the window)

(And my newest SUNCAT – Logan, being all kitten-y in the sunshine… not bad for a 15-year old!)

 July 26, 2019  Posted by at 8:58 am News Tagged with:  No Responses »
Nov 142013

Updates from the following libraries have been loaded into the SUNCAT catalogue. The dates displayed indicate when the files were received by SUNCAT.

Bradford University (09 August 2013)

British Library (27 Sep 13)

CONSER (06 Nov 13)

Glasgow University (11 Sep 13)

Loughborough University (17 Oct 13)

National Art Library (01 Oct 13)

Natural History Museum (25 Oct 13)

Nottingham University (01 Oct 13)

Royal Asiatic Society (18 Oct 13)

Royal College of Nursing (03 Sep 13)

School of Oriental & African Studies, University of London (18 Sep 13)

Southampton University (11 Nov 13)

Swansea University (15 Oct 13)

Wellcome Library (09 Oct 13)
To check on the currency of other libraries on SUNCAT please check the updates page for further details.
SUNCAT is the Serials Union Catalogue for the UK. Visit the service at

 November 14, 2013  Posted by at 2:18 pm Updates No Responses »
Nov 112013

SUNCAT has been updated. Updates from the following libraries were loaded into the catalogue this week (the dates displayed indicate when the file was received).

British Library (02 Aug 13)
CONSER (30 Oct 13)
Durham University (21 Jun 13)
Edinburgh University (21 Jul 13)
Glasgow University (06 Aug 13)
ISSN (12 Sep 13)
Leicester University (24 Oct 13)
Manchester Metropolitan University (08 Oct 13)
NERC: Natural Environment Research Council (10 Sep 13)
Oxford University (25 Oct 13)
Reading University (15 Aug 13)
Royal College of Music (16 Oct 13)
Royal Museums Greenwich Caird Library (18 Sep 13)
Royal Society of Medicine (03 Oct 13)
Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art Library (16 Aug 13)
Southampton University (27 Oct 13)
St Andrews University (08 Oct 13)
Sussex University (02 Oct 13)
Tate Library – Tate Britain (10 Sep 13)
Warwick University (10 Oct 13)
York University (16 Jul 13)


At present, we have a backlog of updates to load as the upgrade took longer than expected; we are in the process of working our way through them. To check on the currency of library updates in SUNCAT,  please check the updates page for further details.

SUNCAT is the Serials Union Catalogue for the UK. Visit the service at


 November 11, 2013  Posted by at 10:02 am Updates No Responses »
Mar 222012

The SUNCAT team will be attending the UKSG Annual Conference in Glasgow next week, from Monday 26th March until Wednesday 28th March.
UKSG “exists to connect the knowledge community and encourage the exchange of ideas on scholarly communication. It is the only organisation spanning the wide range of interests and activities across the scholarly information community of librarians, publishers, intermediaries and technology vendors”.
Follow the conference through the UKSG blog at and on the Twitter hashtag #uksg

The 35th Annual Conference is being held at the Scottish Exhibition Conference Centre in Glasgow. We shall be attending sessions covering interesting subjects such as the SCARLET Project: special collections in the age of the app, and Digging for the unknown known: practices and promises around journal article mining.
It looks to be an exciting conference!

SUNCAT will be on the EDINA stand (number 32) covering all breaks. Please come along and see us if you’re attending. It would be lovely to talk to you about SUNCAT and other EDINA services.

 March 22, 2012  Posted by at 11:38 am News Tagged with:  No Responses »
Jun 152011

EDINA and SUNCAT in particular are starting to explore Open and Linked Data, and would like to ask for your help!

SUNCAT is funded by JISC ( JISC has been actively involved in Open Data, which has resulted in the Discovery Open Metadata Principles ( As a result of this, SUNCAT would like to be able to open up the data that is sent by Contributing Libraries. The Resource Discovery Task Force ( was instrumental in linking the opening up of data and SUNCAT involvement. Open bibliographic data offers the chance for librarians and, indeed, anyone, to reuse the data to build innovative services for researches, teachers, students and librarians.

A major first step in the process of making metadata fully open is obtaining the consent of the Contributing Libraries to allow EDINA to make the supplied serials data open, under an Open Data Commons Public Domain Dedication and Licence
(URL: ) with reference to the ODC Attribution Share Alike Community Norms (the set of norms are published at: ). Please contact us for more details of the licence that we have drawn up. We would be expecting all Contributing Libraries who allow us to open up their serials data to sign this.

Once the data has been made open, we may be able to transform it into a set of triples, and release it as Linked Data. This is dependent on the time scale of the project, and the work that we are able to complete in that time.

We understand that there may be licensing issues with allowing EDINA to use all of the metadata that is supplied to us through regular updates to SUNCAT. However, it would be very useful to be permitted to use some or all of this data, such as letting us use records that you created originally, and did not download from an external bibliographic resource.

It must be stressed that this is exploratory project work. As we are working to a tight timescale, we would like to work with a limited number of Contributing Libraries in the first instance.

We would like to hear from you if you would be happy for us to publish some or all of your serials metadata under an Open Data Commons PDD Licence. Please contact us through the SUNCAT email (

I look forward to hearing from you soon.


Natasha Aburrow-Jones
SUNCAT Project Officer

SUNCAT is the Serials Union Catalogue for the UK. Visit the service at or the SUNCAT blog at
 June 15, 2011  Posted by at 3:12 pm Developments Tagged with: , ,  No Responses »
Apr 082009

Last week, two SUNCAT team members (Natasha and Moira) attended the UKSG annual conference in Torquay. This was a fascinating three day meeting, covering anything and everything to do with serials and e-resources. It was also a chance to meet up with some of our contributing libraries’ representatives on a face-to-face basis.

As far as the plenary and breakout sessions were concerned, the highlights included a talk by Joseph Janes from the University of Washington Information School, who commented that an environment which looks familiar, but is slightly off-kilter, is highly disorientating; referring this to scholarly communications, he said that comfortable territory was being left behind in the march forward, but that the future is not yet an alien landscape. However, the serial as it exists now is evolving, and that has to be accounted for in library practices.
Three sessions on e-books were also interesting. One session of note concerned the JISC national e-books observatory project, which concluded that e-books which were free at the point of use did not have a significant impact on print sales. Moira particularly liked these sessions, as she likes to keep abreast of developments in e-resources as a whole, not simply serials, and so found them useful.
Both Natasha and Moira appreciated the talk by Jill Taylor-Roe from Newcastle University, which considered the current economic climate and the “Big Deal” packages offered by publishers. It was interesting to note that a number of libraries are considering cancelling their Big Deals to concentrate on more specific journal titles.
A highlight for Natasha was the breakout session offered by Dave Pattern, from the University of Huddersfield, which illustrated how Web 2.0 can infiltrate the library OPAC to give increased functionality and usability.

However, the high point of the conference had to be the infamous UKSG quiz – with EDINA representatives on the winning team!

Next year, the UKSG annual conference is being held at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre. SUNCAT hopes to see some of you there!

(For more details of the UKSG conference, please see the website: and the live blog from the conference: )

SUNCAT is the Serials Union Catalogue for the UK. Visit the service at or the SUNCAT blog at
 April 8, 2009  Posted by at 10:09 am News Tagged with:  No Responses »