Mar 162015

In a recent release of SUNCAT we reintroduced browse functionality which had been missing since we moved over to the new interface last year.

Although searching is probably the more common way of finding a known item (especially since the arrival of Google), browsing can prove useful if you aren’t quite sure what it is you are looking for. It can lead to serendipitous and new discoveries and help you find out about the unknown unknowns!

You can start browsing by clicking on the “Browse” link underneath the search boxes on the service homepage/basic search page. There is also a link in the navigation section on the top left hand side of all the remaining service pages.

Click on the "Browse" link on the SUNCAT homepage

Click on the “Browse” link on the SUNCAT homepage

To start browsing just enter a term(s) or the first few letters of a term into the browse box and choose what you would like to browse by, e.g. by title, by subject, by publisher etc. and click on the “Browse” button.

Enter your term(s) and select an index

Enter your term(s) and select an index

You can browse by:

A list of results will open up beneath the browse box at the appropriate point in the alphabetical listing for the index you have chosen. So the top result might be the exact term(s) you entered, if it exists in SUNCAT, but if not, it will be the closest term after this alphabetically. For example, if you choose to browse by title and enter the term “beards” the results will start with “Beardsley news”. From here you can either use the “Forward” or “Back” navigation buttons to browse back or forward in the alphabetical listing.

The number of serial records associated with each result is displayed in the right hand column. Click on a result to view these records.

Click on a result to view the associated records

Click on a result to view the associated records

There are also two additional numerical indexes available ISBN and ISSN (the international unique identifiers for monographs and serials).

If you have any queries about the browse feature or SUNCAT in general please contact the EDINA Helpdesk at

 March 16, 2015  Posted by at 3:44 pm Developments Tagged with: , ,  No Responses »
Aug 282014

We announced back in November 2012 that we would be developing a new SUNCAT interface and have posted a number of items about the development along the way. Now, following the positive feedback on the new interface from the last survey, we would like to retire the original SUNCAT interface at the end of next month on Friday 26th September.

The original interface was went live as a pilot service in early 2005, and proved to be popular for it’s simplicity and ease of use, but we hope you agree that the new interface represents a significant improvement and modernisation of the SUNCAT service.

We would be grateful if you could move to using the new interface, if you haven’t already, as soon as possible and also if you could update any bookmarks accordingly. The address for the homepage of the new service remains as

One feature which will no longer be available is the Google search gadget ( We understand that Google will not support this in the long term so we have not updated this to work with the new interface. If, however, there is sufficient interest we would be happy to investigate providing an alternative as a future development.

Please also contact us as soon as possible via the EDINA Helpdesk at if you have any queries or concerns about this or the switch off of the original interface in general.

 August 28, 2014  Posted by at 3:23 pm Developments, News Tagged with: , , ,  No Responses »
Jul 022014

I thoroughly enjoyed the recent Interlend 2014 conference at the Carlton Highland Hotel in Edinburgh. Interlend is the annual conference for the Forum for Interlending and Information Delivery (FIL), which is an organisation for those involved in interlending and document supply, enabling them to exchange ideas and views and also to raise the profile of this area of work nationally and internationally.

This year’s conference took place on EDINA’s home turf in Edinburgh and featured an excellent range of talks focusing on marketing interlending services, developments to systems supporting interlending and case studies of evolving interlending services in practice. My highlights would have to include:

Anthony Brewerton, Head of Academic Services at the University of Warwick, who kicked off the conference with a lively and engaging tour of the key concepts to be considered when marketing and branding a library service. This included the ladder of loyalty – developing relationships with your customers, until they become advocates of, then champions of and finally partners in developing your service.

Ann Lees and Stephen Winch from NHS Education for Scotland Knowledge Services Group (NES KSG) recounted the trials of dealing with a “no copying” policy across NHS Scotland (NHSS), following the Scottish Government’s decision several years ago not to renew the then existing CLA licence. To compensate, a service was set up to provide copyright fee paid copies of material via the British Library. In order to streamline this process NES KSG utilised the British Library’s API to enable NHSS users to make requests via the Knowledge Network search platform. Users can run a search on the Knowledge Network and if no full text is available to them a link to login to the new Document Delivery service is displayed. The user is asked to fill in details about the reason for the request, preferred delivery option and then the order is placed via the British Library DDS API. NHSS librarians also receive email copies of the requests and go into the system to approve them. The system went live earlier this year and usage is gradually taking off. However, since June this year a revised CLA licence has been signed so restricted copying is now also available within NHSS.

I feared that a presentation on copyright could be rather dry but Emily Stannard, the Copyright & Compliance Officer from the University of Reading gave an engaging and informative update on the current status of key copyright developments in the UK, particularly the copyright exceptions which came into force at the start of June 2014. These include:

Supplying single copies of published works to (non-profit) libraries and to library users. No contract or individual licence can override this exception, which could have implications for those libraries looking to fulfil ILL requests via copies of articles from e-journals. Potentially libraries would not need to check individual licences before supplying copies. Emily advised us to keep our eyes peeled for more information on this topic.

Other exceptions include:

  • Preservation copying covers all works
  • No requirement for paper copyright declarations, an online declaration with checkbox or digital signature is now sufficient
  • Libraries can copy all types of work for persons doing non-commercial research/private study
  • Text and data mining for non-commercial purposes
  • Accessible copies for disabled people
  • Making works available on dedicated terminals (providing there is no contract saying you can’t)

Marjory Lobban’s (Document Delivery Supervisor at the University of Edinburgh) review of interlending at the University of Edinburgh was set against the backdrop of the changing environment the library is operating within the University, with more online courses, more distance learners, more students overall and reduced library sites.

Following a downward trend in ILL requests from the late 1990s to early 2000s with the emergence of e-journals, figures started to level out again when the University started using WorldShare in 2007 and started to increase in 2010 when the University started using Iliad leading to more exposure to overseas libraries accompanied by a move to online requesting, which streamlines the process for users and ILL staff. An increasing number of supplies to the University are coming from overseas libraries so ILL requests are now often sent straight overseas rather than to the British Library or other UK libraries. Lending to overseas is also increasing.

Future plans include looking at pay per view options where full text isn’t immediately available to the user. Purchasing items if cheaper than the interlending option and rebranding the ILL service.

I also gave a presentation focusing on the new SUNCAT service, including:

  • Background and context to the recent redevelopment
  • Highlighting the key features which can be found on the new service
  • Describing how SUNCAT can assist end users, library staff and in particular ILL staff
  • A live demo of the new service
  • An update on future plans for the service

Attending Interlend 2014 not only let me introduce the new SUNCAT interface to one of our valued user groups, but also helped to give me more information on what is happening and some key priorities in the world of interlending, all very helpful as we consider how to continue to develop the SUNCAT service.

The presentations for all the sessions will soon be available on the FIL website.

Jun 182014

Following on from my last post about the SUNCAT survey, I would like to highlight how useful your feedback is to us, as it has helped as identify some major issues with using the service on the IE8 browser. Once we realised that there was a problem our developers immediately started to investigate the cause and fairly quickly identified a solution. We have implemented a new release of the service adding in the appropriate fix so any IE8 users should now notice a significant improvement. However, if you are still experiencing problems please get in touch with us via the EDINA Helpdesk at

Huge apologies to anyone who has experienced these problems so far!

 June 18, 2014  Posted by at 3:45 pm Developments Tagged with: , ,  No Responses »
Jun 182014

The survey on the new look SUNCAT service is available until Friday 27th June. Please do take a few minutes to give us your feedback. All comments are very welcome and will provide us with vital information on any areas which require further development. Thank you to all who have responded so far.

 June 18, 2014  Posted by at 9:44 am Developments, News Tagged with: , , ,  No Responses »
May 272014

Following on from the launch of the new look SUNCAT as the primary service in March, and before finally switching off the old service , we would like to gather your feedback via a short survey

Your input is very valuable to us as it is integral to the planning of our future developments and priorities. You can find summary reports of previous user satisfaction surveys and the resulting planned actions, many of which have already been implemented, on the EDINA website.

We would be really grateful for your time and comments and would also encourage you to circulate the survey details as widely as possible.

The survey will be available until Friday 27th June 2014.

You can also continue to email any comments to or to use the “Contact” link at the bottom of all the SUNCAT pages.

Thank you in advance!

 May 27, 2014  Posted by at 9:07 am Developments, News Tagged with: , , ,  No Responses »
May 122014

The redevelopment of SUNCAT is continuing, with the following new features and functionality having just been added to the service.

Filtering of CONSER records

It is now possible to filter by CONSER records. This can be done in both basic and advanced search by clicking on CONSER in the Library drop-down list.

Greater responsivity when resizing the screen

SUNCAT now has a more responsive layout which is better able to support viewing on tablets and phones.

How the responsive SUNCAT site might look on an iPhone.

Re-introduction of format filtering

It is now possible to filter according to non-electronic, electronic or indeed all formats.

Advanced search boosting

In an earlier post we explained how search terms are boosted in SUNCAT. This was previously only available in basic search, but now the boosting of the MARC 245 tag has now been added to the advanced search.

Addition of volume, issue and date information in the TOC feature

It is now possible to view the volume, issue and date information where available.

Table of Contents for the journal ‘Socio-Economic Review’ now including volume, issue and date information.

Why not try these new, improved features out and let us know what you think? Please send any questions and/or comments to:

 May 12, 2014  Posted by at 3:11 pm Developments Tagged with: , , , ,  No Responses »
Apr 092014

The new SUNCAT interface is available at – this became the main SUNCAT interface in March 2014 but the old interface is still available. This new interface is built on a different platform and will therefore exhibit some differences in behaviour. We have discussed some of these in previous technical blog posts, and updated help and support documentation will also clarify the changes. In this post we will give some attention to how search results are ranked according to their relevance to the search terms.


One of the features of the Solr search server which we use to query the data, is that when we perform a search, the results that we get back include a relevancy score, or rank.

“Relevancy is the quality of results returned from a query, encompassing both what documents are found, and their relative ranking (the order that they are returned to the user).”

The scores are normalised to fall on a scale between 0 and 1, but you don’t need to worry about the scores as we don’t show them to you – we just use them to inform the resulting ordering that we show you. You can read more about relevancy scoring at

By default the returned results are listed in order of relevance, with the most relevant first. This is what is reflected in the position column. Note that while the other sortable columns can be ordered in ascending or descending order, we do not allow the position column to be ordered in ascending order (i.e. from least relevant to most relevant). If you click on the position column header, the results will be ordered in descending order of relevancy.

Results table header

Clicking on the position column orders results by relevance. They may only be ordered in descending order.

We have defined relevancy so that things like punctuation and capitalisation don’t affect a result’s score.


Boosting allows us to modify scores; so we give matches on a particular search index (field) more weight than others.

We can boost the importance to the search of a particular search field, or of particular documents when we put them into Solr, or of a particular clause within a query used to search the data. SUNCAT currently performs a variety of boosting:

  • Boost a result (significantly) if the search term matches exactly.
  • Boost a result where the search terms occur close together (within 3 words of each other).
  • When searches are made on the Title Keywords field, results are boosted if the search terms occur in the 245 MARC field (Title Statement), particularly any of the sub-fields $a (Title), $b (Remainder of title), $n (Number of part/section of a work) or $p (Name of part/section of a work).

So for example, searching for “Journal hellenic studies” in the Title Keywords field would produce results including Journal of Hellenic Studies as expected, and also Archaeological reports (which has “Journal of Hellenic Studies” in the Added Title field). However the former would appear higher up in the results because the search terms occur in the main title in the 245 field.


Here are some sample searches for British trees; first, a search for records with any of the words “British” and “trees”.

Results for "British trees" (any)

Search results for any of the words “British trees”. There are over 36,000.

There are more than 36,000 results. From around the 300th result and towards the end you will see many results which have been returned because they contain the word “British”, and less related to trees. This is possibly not what you were interested in, but much like using a search engine, you can ignore the results at the end, because the most relevant ones are shown to you first. You aren’t forced to make a more accurate search, though you can if necessary.

If we search for records with all (both!) of the words “British” and “trees”, we will get fewer results:

Results for "British trees" (all)

Search results for all of the words “British trees”.

There are only two results that include both words. The Basic search feature uses this interpretation by default, searching for all the specified terms.

You could search for the quoted phrase “British trees” but this produces nothing as the exact phrase does not occur anywhere:

Results for "British trees" (quoted phrase)

There are no search results for the exact phrase “British trees”.

Another aspect which affects the scoring of results is whether a search term has been stemmed. For example, when you enter the word “British”, it will be stemmed so that Solr will look for variations on it, such as “Brit” and “Britain”. Matches on the variations will have less influence over the score than precise matches to “British”.


It can be hard to unravel exactly what causes a particular record to get a higher score than another, because of the variety of factors and weightings that go into its calculation. The relevancy can be affected by the exactness of word matches, by their frequency, by how similar the words in the record are to words in the search term, how close together they are, what fields they appear in, and a variety of other factors it is possible to bring to bear on the scoring algorithm.

In deciding what aspects of the results should be considered most important, it is necessary to make trade-offs. The challenge is to make the results as intuitively sensible as possible, but it is not always possible to infer and reflect the exact intentions of the user – and sometimes particular combinations of boosting and searching on particular fields may give apparently counter-intuitive positioning to some results. Search algorithms are inherently heuristic and are an attempt to provide meaningful results to a simple query. In general, the more accurate and complete the underlying MARC records, the better the resulting scoring will be, much like trying to raise a website’s profile in a search engine.

The Advanced search feature provides more options, and more control over how search terms are interpreted, so that you can really pin down what you are searching for – but the basic search should in most cases provide a quick and effective doorway to the wealth of information in SUNCAT!

 April 9, 2014  Posted by at 10:36 am Developments Tagged with: , ,  No Responses »
Mar 252014

We are now back in the office after our EDINA Serials Forums last week in London and Edinburgh and would like to send a large thank you to all the attendees. We were very happy to see the level of interest and engagement in our services, particularly the new look SUNCAT! We were particularly delighted to receive the positive feedback about the new interface and the latest planned development of a journals holding comparison service.

After an initial chat over coffee and biscuits both EDINA’s User Support Deputy Manager, Andrew, kicked off the afternoon sessions started with an overview of EDINA’s involvement in the world of journal discovery, access and preservation and how it is positioned within JISC’s portfolio of services.


Fred Guy, SUNCAT Service Manager, and Zena Mulligan, SUNCAT Project Officer, then focussed in attention on SUNCAT, starting with a brief background to SUNCAT, moving onto the context for the current development, the key enhancements of the new look service, a live demonstration and rounding off with how SUNCAT can support end-users and library professionals, illustrated with a number of use cases.


The final use case focussed on the UK Research Reserve and led into an informative overview from the UKRR Manager, Daryl Yang, describing its core objectives, members, figures on material disposed of and retained, savings made and future plans as well as how SUNCAT supports them with the vital scarcity checking element of their decision making process.

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It was then time for afternoon tea and cake – which for our Edinburgh session, was provided by EDINA’s resident baker (and SUNCAT’s Metadata Expert), Tasha, who made everyone very happy with a selection of truly delicious cupcakes. The break also provided an opportunity for networking and to catch up with our current contributors and to speak to those attendees interested in contributing to SUNCAT or in finding out more about the holdings comparison development.


After the break, Fred provided an introduction to the need for archiving programmes for ejournals mentioning the work of the Keepers Registry and our analysis that has found that over two thirds of ejournals accessed in 2012 are not currently being archived by any organisation.

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Adam Rusbridge, UK LOCKSS Alliance Coordinator, then gave a walk-through of the forthcoming Title List Comparison feature of the Keepers Registry, which will assist with print rationalisation and subscription management workflows.  This led onto a broader discussion of EDINA services that can assist with continuing access assurances.  The UK LOCKSS Alliance helps libraries to build local collections of content and provide readers with continuing access by integrating the collection with link resolver systems.  Adam then gave an overview of SafeNet, a project to establish a shared service that offers strong continuing access assurances in conjunction with an authoritative entitlement registry to manage access permissions.


Finally, after a final round of Q&A we wound up the afternoon by asking if anyone would be interested in attending a similar event in the future and having received a very definite yes, please look out for something similar (but different) in 2015!

Thanks again from the Forum presenters, Andrew Bevan (EDINA User Support), Fred Guy (Keepers Registry & SUNCAT), Zena Mulligan (SUNCAT), Adam Rusbridge (Keepers Registry, UK LOCKSS Alliance) and Daryl Yang (UKRR). Any questions about the Forum or the services highlighted please contact us via the EDINA helpdesk at

Nov 202013

This is the fourth in a series of blog posts highlighting some of the new features now available in the redeveloped SUNCAT. In this post I will detail how you can quickly and easily find out more information about a journal you are interested in and the library which holds it. This information should enable you to either apply for an Inter-Library loan via your local library service or to plan a visit to a library to access the journal in person.

Once you have conducted a successful search on SUNCAT and have found a title or titles you are interested in, you can display further information about the title and discover detailed holdings information by clicking on the journal title in the results display. This will take you into the full record for the title.

The full record display includes bibliographic information, such as the ISSN (International Standard Serial Number), publisher details, first date of publication, subject headings and any changes of title etc. If you scroll further down the screen you will be presented with a list of the libraries holding the title. This holdings display represents the very heart of the SUNCAT service, providing an aggregated summary of where you can find a journal title in the UK.

The holding libraries are listed in alphabetical order and for most libraries the following information is displayed:

  • An icon indicating if the holdings are print or electronic
  • Summary holdings statement of the volumes and issues a library actually holds for that title
  • Location and shelfmark of the journal
  • A link to the online version if the holding is for an electronic journal
  • A link to the local library catalogue


Holdings Display for a Title


The combination of both the bibliographic information and the holdings summary allows you to ascertain that you are definitely looking at the correct journal and which libraries actually hold the volume/issue you require. The location and shelfmark information are important should you choose to visit the library. We would also recommend clicking on the link to the local library catalogue so that you can check the most up to date status of the item you are interested in before travelling to the library.

As well as providing information about journal holdings we also provide information about each of the holding libraries. Clicking on the library name will take you to the following:

  • A link to the library homepage
  • Contact details
  • Google directions to the library
  • British Library Code
  • The date the library’s data was last updated in SUNCAT

Information about the Barnes Library at Birmingham University


This information allows you to quickly and easily go into the library’s website or to contact the library to check their access and lending policies for external users. The Google directions are obviously helpful if you do indeed plan to physically visit the library. The British Library Code is provided for Inter-Library Loan staff and the date of the library’s last update to SUNCAT provides an indication of how current the holdings information is.

If you are affiliated with a UK University the link to the SCONUL Access website, which sits just above the list of holdings, will allow you to check whether you are allowed to access and borrow material from other UK University Libraries.



If you any ideas of additional useful information we could provide about holding libraries please get let us know via the EDINA Helpdesk.