SUNCAT: Transforming the service to create an open bridge from resource discovery to access
SUNCAT is the national Serials Union CATalogue for the UK. It contains information about both the print and electronic serials holdings of over 90 libraries, including all the national libraries and the largest Higher Education (HE)
libraries in the UK and Ireland.
SUNCAT is an EDINA service funded by Jisc and is free to all to search and to any UK research library to join.
EDINA has embarked on a programme to redevelop SUNCAT, utilising the power and flexibility of an open source enterprise search platform, SolrTM
. The impetus for this redevelopment emerged from a long held desire to not
only provide enhanced functionality and a new look contemporary interface, but also to be able to be more responsive to user feedback.
Work commenced on the first phase of this development in spring 2012 as EDINA started to design and implement an entirely new bespoke user interface for the SUNCAT service.
Having discovered and located journals and articles of interest, SUNCAT
aims to support users in the final step of the bridge, to actually access the
content, whether instantly at their desktop, on the move via their mobile,
physically visiting a library or via ILL.
• There are OpenURL links through to the full text of journals so that
users can link through to the appropriate copy via their institutional
• SUNCAT links to the SCONUL Access scheme, which allows many
university library users to borrow or use books and journals at other
libraries which belong to the scheme.
• Users can find contact information for all the libraries on SUNCAT,
plus links to their websites and catalogues so that they can check
local access information.
• Users can also find links to Google maps and directions for each
• EDINA is also working on developing a SUNCAT Mobile app, which
will utilise the functionality and flexibility of the granular location
information created and stored as part of the redevelopment and will
therefore enable users on the move to find and access journals at
the most convenient library.
• SUNCAT assists with long term access to rare journals by providing a
service to the UK Research Reserve (UKRR).
SUNCAT’s main strength lies in this step of the bridge and as such it is a
key tool for both researchers and librarians trying to find out about the
location of specific journal titles and articles.
• Users can limit their search to specific institutions or to specific
geographic locations, from Inverness to Exeter. The limits are based
on very precise granular information, down to the location of
individual library sites. It is possible to combine library and location
limits to suit individual requirements, whether to particular regional
areas or cities, e.g. Scotland or London or to members of a
• In a future phase of the redevelopment EDINA hopes to enable
individual users to set up their own default location/institutional
limits and further to develop mini union catalogues for groups of
institutions, e.g. local NHS libraries.
• SUNCAT helps researchers and librarians, particularly inter-library
loan (ILL) librarians, to locate journals and articles which are not
held/subscribed to in their institution. This is particularly important for
libraries working within constrained subscription budgets.
• SUNCAT includes detailed volume and issue holdings information
vital for visiting researchers or ILL requests.
• Further information, such as BL codes has been incorporated into the
holdings display to assist with ILL requests. The addition of ILL
department email addresses will also form part of a future phase of
• Future work on a mobile app will allow users to find journals closest
to their current location.
“[Not having SUNCAT] would have a big impact. My resources would be
cut down… we may not be able to provide the location search
service to our users, as it may not be cost effective to provide this
service without a centralised catalogue.”
[Quote from North West Libraries Interlending Partnership case study]
Both researchers and librarians can use SUNCAT to find out about the
existence of journals in particular subject areas or from particular
• SUNCAT opens up the collections of smaller specialist libraries, such
as the Tate Library, Tate Britain, the Royal Society of Medicine and the
Zoological Society of London as well as the largest UK research
libraries, such as the British Library (BL), University of Oxford and the
University of Glasgow.
• Enables users to discover journals from the collections of over 90
libraries, plus the Directory of Open Access Journals, in one search
• Users can find journals in particular subject areas using browse, basic
and advanced search functionality with pre-search limits such as
electronic or print format, language etc.
• Post search filters enable users to refine their search results to
particular subject areas, publishers etc.
• Users can also discover articles via the extension of the Tables of
Contents (ToCs) coverage.
• All Librarians can consult MARC records on SUNCAT and Contributing
Libraries can freely download records to update their local catalogues
and so improve resource discovery at a local level.
• As part of the redevelopment EDINA will also release a public API
enabling the query and retrieval of records in a variety of metadata
formats, including Dublin Core and MODS.
“Improves access to serials and makes the retrieval a bit more
consistent. So if students are doing a subject search they will pick up the
journals as well as the books that we’ve got linked by the subject
headings, so it really has improved access.”
[Quote from Loughborough University Library case study on the results of
using downloaded records from SUNCAT to upgrade their local
Underpinning the open bridge, SUNCAT also supports librarians in the area of Collection Management:
• SUNCAT provides an overview of UK journal holdings and collections.
• UK libraries can promote/highlight their collections via SUNCAT for free.
• SUNCAT can enable the comparison of journal holdings and collections at a local or on a consortial basis. This can be particularly useful for the deduplication of titles (freeing up space and money), e.g. SUNCAT provides
a service to the UKRR, providing reports on the holdings of titles across its member libraries, checking on the scarcity of titles flagged for deduplication.
• SUNCAT provides a free Z39.50 MARC 21 record downloading service to its Contributing Libraries to assist them with the creation and upgrading of records on their local catalogues. This includes ISSN records and high quality records from
CONSER. Further, MARC records are freely available for anyone to consult to again help with local cataloguing.
Transforming the service to create an open bridge
from resource discovery to access
The dates for Phases 2 and 3 are provisional.
Phase 1 April 2013 Preview
Phase 2 September 2013 Early view launch. The early view will
run in parallel with the existing Aleph
January 2014 Release of version 2.0 of the software
April/May 2014 Workshops for users
Phase 3 May 2014 Public launch of the new service
All photos copyright iStockimages 2013, except discovery image which is copyright Vmenkov under a Wikimedia Creative Commons license
“The importance of SUNCAT to the UKRR is the timeliness of the data
and the reliability and quality of the data.”
[Quote from UKRR case study]
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