Feb 152013

SUNCAT has been updated. Updates from the following libraries were loaded into the catalogue in the last week. The dates displayed indicate when the files were received by SUNCAT.

  • Bristol University (08 Feb 13)
  • British Library (01 Feb 13)
  • CONSER (06 Feb 13)
  • Directory of Open Access Journals (11 Feb 13)
  • Exeter University (01 Feb 13)
  • National Art Library (05 Feb 13)
  • National Library of Scotland (01 Feb 13)
  • Royal Society of Medicine (08 Feb 13)
  • St Andrews University (04 Feb 13)
  • Senate House Libraries, University of London (01 Feb 13)
  • University College London (11 Feb 13)
  • Wellcome Library (29 Jan 13)

To check on the currency of other libraries on SUNCAT please check the updatespage for further details.

SUNCAT is the Serials Union Catalogue for the UK. Visit the service at or the SUNCAT blog at
 February 15, 2013  Posted by at 3:44 pm Updates No Responses »
Feb 142013

We’ve just published the reportfrom our Benefits and Impact Survey for 2013. The survey was launched back in November and closed at the end of last month.

The report confirms SUNCAT’s primary role as a centralised source of serials information and UK holdings, with 75% of responses stating, either locating serials and articles, or checking bibliographic information, as the primary purposes for using the service.

The key features of the service which are most valued by the respondents include:

  • SUNCAT’s comprehensive coverage
  • Its aggregation and display of serials information and UK holdings
  • The accuracy and currency of the data provided
  • The speed and ease of use of the service

We are very happy to see that the vast majority of respondents find SUNCAT not only easy or very easy to use (86%) but that it also saves them time (89%). Further, 97% indicated they would recommend the service to others.

“It is such a comprehensive reference source it would take me much longer to check information elsewhere.”

“SUNCAT is easy to use and its coverage of UK serial holdings is great.”

“Very trustworthy, fast and comprehensive. Records are to a very high standard.”

“Find Suncat invaluable. If it wasn’t available I would try to source an alternative. Don’t know what though!”

We also used the survey to find out what improvements our users would like to see in SUNCAT so that we can use this information to plan and prioritise our future developments. A number of the suggestions related to the data provided by the SUNCAT Contributing Libraries (CLs), both requesting more detailed holdings information and also providing additional information such as licensing restrictions for electronic serials. While this area is not one EDINA has immediate control over we do take note of these ideas, in the hope that if our CLs start recording and linking such information to their serials records, we would be able to start incorporating this into SUNCAT.

However, with regard to suggested improvements related to the SUNCAT interface we are happy to report that a number of these will be addressed as part of the redevelopment of SUNCAT, announced in November and mentioned in the previous posting. These include:

  • Moving the search functionality to the homepage of the service to integrate the service and website more closely
  • Providing a print/electronic serials limit to the search functionality to enable users to pre-filter their search by format
  • Adding print/electronic icons to the holdings display to enable users to more quickly and easily distinguish between print and electronic holdings

It is also good to know that our users are keen to see the service continue to expand and we will indeed be continuing to add new libraries throughout 2013.

Additional suggestions, described in the report, were also received and we will be investigating the feasibility of these and where possible adding them to a list of requirements for future development work.
SUNCAT is the Serials Union Catalogue for the UK. Visit the service at or the SUNCAT blog at
 February 14, 2013  Posted by at 12:52 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 082013

SUNCAT has been updated. Updates from the following libraries were loaded into the catalogue in the last week. The dates displayed indicate when the files were received by SUNCAT.

  • CONSER (30 Jan 13)
  • Durham University (30 Jan 13)
  • Glasgow University (16 Jan 13)
  • ISSN (31 Jan 13)
  • Liverpool University (01 Feb 13)
  • Manchester University (21 Jan 13)
  • Natural History Museum (25 Jan 13)
  • Newcastle University (24 Jan 13)
  • Reading University (29 Jan 13)
  • Royal Asiatic Society (24 Jan 13)
  • Sheffield Hallam University (16 Jan 13)
  • Southampton University (03 Feb 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 or the SUNCAT blog at
 February 8, 2013  Posted by at 3:50 pm Updates No Responses »
Feb 082013

Tomorrow (Saturday 9th February) is National Libraries Day. To celebrate libraries and all the fantastic material they hold here are some weird and wonderful serials found in SUNCATwith a library and librarian theme.

  • The Nugget weekly … : combining The Prairie, Detective, and Robin Hood libraries.
  • Polar libraries bulletin
  • Reading light : Oxford University libraries readers’ newsletter.
  • Scalable Parallel Libraries Conference
  • Taking stock : libraries and the book trade : journal of the National Acquisitions Group.
  • What Croydon reads.
  • Wilpower : Women in Libraries newsletter.
  • Books, bytes and buildings : strategic plan for the library service.
  • Cowboy adventure library.
  • At your service : for deans and directors of research libraries.
  • Australian play matters : journal of the Australian Toy Libraries Association.
  • Behind the shelves : Hereford and Worcester County Libraries staff magazine.
  • High roller. (Nevada Library Association.)
  • The Librarian : being an account of scarce valuable, and useful English books, manuscript libraries, public records, &c. &c / By James Savage.
  • Show-me libraries.
  • Stress : an information bulletin on libraries and local government reorganisation in Yorkshire / produced by the Yorkshire Branch of the Library Association.
  • WULOP : Westminster union list of periodicals.
  • Between librarians : journal of the Maryland Library Association.
  • Cassette scrutiny : a journal for librarians & library users.
  • From the State librarian’s desk.
  • Fundraising for the small public library : a how-to-do-it manual for librarians / James Swan.
  • Game for a LAFF : the fanzine for Librarians As Football Fans.
  • Harrod’s librarians’ glossary of terms used in librarianship, documentation and the book crafts, and reference book.
  • How to do it manual for librarians.
  • Librarians at liberty
  • Librarians for the Alliance : for librarians interested in Liberal and SDP policies.
  • Matter of fax : a directory of fax numbers and email addresses for librarians, archivists and information scientists.
  • Ogle : Newsletter Committee of the Ontario Government Librarians Council.
  • Grassroots for high risque librarians.
SUNCAT now contains the serials records of 89 libraries, from academic and research libraries through to special libraries and National Libraries, and the number is growing.Take a look at our Contributing Libraries map to see where they are located and what their contact details are.
Follow what libraries are doing for National Libraries Day on Twitter by following @NatLibrariesDay and checking out the hashtags #LoveLibraries and #NLD13.
 February 8, 2013  Posted by at 11:38 am Weird titles Tagged with:  No Responses »
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 »
Feb 072013

On Monday, 4th February, one of the SUNCAT Project Officers kicked off the Twitter Takeover of the Voices for the Library (@VoicesLibrary) in the run-up to National Libraries Day on Saturday, 9th February. Check out Twitter for #nld13 to see what libraries across the UK are doing.

To give a bit of background:
Voices for the Library (@ukpling) describes itself as “Publicising the Public Library Services in the UK and the work librarians do.” Their sister Twitter account is @VoicesLibrary, which has a “new librarian every day”. As described in an earlier blog post, a call was put out on the LIS-PROFESSION mailing list, asking for librarians from all walks of life who would be willing to talk about where they work, and what makes it so special. Natasha Aburrow-Jones (@TashaAJ), the SUNCAT bibliographic Project Officer, was selected to kick off a week of diverse librarians talking about their roles (others include a museum librarian, a public librarian, an art librarian, an NHS librarian and a University librarian).

Natasha says:
“I applied to be one of the Voices for the Library in the run-up to National Libraries Day as I wanted to tell everyone what a fantastic service SUNCAT is, and how the team behind it are so dedicated to their work. I also wanted to point out that SUNCAT is not merely a librarian’s tool – it’s available for anyone (everyone!) to use.
I was somewhat surprised / most honoured to be selected to be the first Voice; I presumed that my role was so specialised, that it wouldn’t have great appeal to everyone. However, that presumption seems to have been blown out of the water with the comments I’ve received since undertaking the #TwitterTakeover!”

Over the course of the working day, Natasha issued 42 tweets, mainly covering the work that lies behind SUNCAT, to show what happens during the average SUNCAT day. This included talking about the range of libraries that contribute data to SUNCAT, the continual updating of the database, the “Weird and Wonderful” titles found in SUNCAT (and are blogged about thematically), data munging, ease of searching SUNCAT and what a timesaver it is, etc. She also mentioned the new interface that SUNCAT will be having in the near future.

A Storify made up of the tweets has been put together, and can be found here:
You can look at the tweets as they happened, and the responses.

There was much re-tweeting, spreading as far as Sweden, the United States and Australia. It also meant new followers for both @TashaAJ and @suncatteam. Comments included:
(On the new SUNCAT interface) “Wow, that looks very different. I rely on SUNCAT to identify libraries to source articles for ILL requests.”
“Are you doing a “Weird & wonderful” libraries SUNCAT post for National Libraries Day?” – we are now! The post will be put up on Friday, in time for National Libraries Day on the 9th February.
“I’ve never used SUNCAT so I learnt a lot!”

 February 7, 2013  Posted by at 11:58 am News Tagged with: , ,  No Responses »
Feb 042013

You may have seen a recent call on LIS-PROFESSION for a call for a Twitter takeover of the Voices for the Library account to celebrate National Libraries Day on the 9th February. The call said:
What do Librarians actually do? As part of National Libraries Day, we want to celebrate librarians of all shapes and sizes. A librarian a day will take over our sister account @ukpling and share their experiences of working in the library and information profession.

Well, you might be interested to know that the first Twitter takeover on Monday 4th February will be none other than @TashaAJ – normally known as Natasha Aburrow-Jones, the SUNCAT Bibliographic Project Officer.

@VoicesLibrary said it best:
Interested in finding out more about what goes on at SUNCAT Union Serial Catalogue? Our first tweeter for #nld13 is @TashaAJ. Starts 4/2/13

Feel free to follow either @VoicesLibrary and/or @TashaAJ and see what goes on in the SUNCATteam!

 February 4, 2013  Posted by at 9:10 am News Tagged with: , ,  No Responses »
Feb 042013

SUNCAT is sending out a survey to Contributing Libraries on Monday, 4thFebruary, to discuss what the libraries are doing with regards to the adoption of RDA (Resource Description Access), the new cataloguing rules that are due to replace AACR2 (Anglo-American Cataloguing Rules, 2nd edition).  The results will help with integrating RDA into SUNCAT, for example, in adding new MARC21 codes for display, new indexing routines, etc. The analysis of the answers will also form the basis of a paper that has been accepted for publication in Alexandria: the journal of national & international library and information issues (0955-7490), in a special RDA-themed issue.

We would be very grateful if our Contributing Libraries completed this survey. We are happy to receive more than one questionnaire from any given Contributing Library, as there may be different answers from different departments, etc. The survey will be open for 3 weeks.
 February 4, 2013  Posted by at 8:54 am News Tagged with: ,  No Responses »
Feb 012013

SUNCAT has been updated. Updates from the following libraries were loaded into the catalogue in the last week. The dates displayed indicate when the files were received by SUNCAT.

  • Aberystwyth University (15 Jan 13)
  • Cambridge University (08 Jan 13)
  • CONSER (23 Jan 13) 
  • Liverpool University (25 Jan 13)
  • St Andrews University (08 Jan 13)
  • Southampton University (27 Jan 13)
  • Trinity College Dublin (16 Jan 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 or the SUNCAT blog at
 February 1, 2013  Posted by at 3:01 pm Updates No Responses »