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!)