Web Magazine for Information Professionals

SUNCAT: Ten Years and Beyond

Celia Jenkins charts the beginnings of SUNCAT, its development over the last ten years and what the future holds for the service.

2013 marked the 10th anniversary of SUNCAT. Back in 2003, SUNCAT (Serials Union CATalogue) started as a project undertaken by EDINA [1] in response to an observed need for better journals information in the UK, which was identified in the UKNUC report [2]. In August 2006, SUNCAT became a full service, and is now an established resource that contains serials records, including more and more e-journals information, of an ever-increasing number of libraries. It has been further developed, with additional functionality, culminating in the introduction of a new interface last year. This overview of SUNCAT will look at how it was started, how it has developed over the years and what the future holds for the service.


SUNCAT is a Jisc[3]-funded service containing serials records at the title level, in a variety of formats held by 99 institutions. This includes the UK National libraries and Legal Deposit libraries [4], specialist libraries and libraries of the major research universities. It also holds records from the CONSER (Cooperative Online Serials) database [5], ISSN Registry [6] and the DOAJ (Directory of Open Access Journals) [7]. It covers libraries throughout the UK, from the University of Aberdeen in north-east Scotland to the University of Exeter in south-west England. In addition, it contains serials records from Trinity College Dublin, which is the only non-UK Contributing Library; it is also one of the UK Legal Deposit Libraries, which can all be found in SUNCAT. Receiving records from such a wide range of libraries all over the UK is a very important objective of SUNCAT. Specialist libraries and Legal Deposit Libraries hold many titles which are unique to that institution. Research universities hold a very wide range of titles, sometimes on specialist subjects. A full list of Contributing Libraries is available on the SUNCAT Web site [8].

SUNCAT is the single most comprehensive source of information on serials holdings in the UK, and is continually adding journals data from a range of new libraries. SUNCAT accepts all records which Contributing Libraries deem to be serials and, therefore, contains a wide variety of material, such as journals, periodicals, newspapers, newsletters, magazines, proceedings and annual reports. It currently holds over 7.5 million bibliographic records.

In order to ensure the information on SUNCAT is kept as current as possible, the catalogue is updated on a regular basis. The SUNCAT team sets up an updating schedule specific to each Contributing Library (CL). Most libraries provide monthly updates, though some update more frequently while some do so less frequently. Update schedules are arranged with each library to suit its workflows.

Who Uses SUNCAT and Why

SUNCAT is a freely available service, with no log-in necessary. It enables academics, researchers and students, and indeed anyone else, to locate journals quickly and easily and, ultimately, obtain full-text articles. To this end, SUNCAT has developed a ToC (Table of Contents) facility. (See SUNCAT’s ToC Service below.) Searching SUNCAT can also help users identify other journals in a particular field, of which they may previously have been unaware.

SUNCAT is invaluable for librarians, especially those who deal with Inter-Library Loans and so need to locate where a serial is held in the UK. SUNCAT also has a vital role to play in library collection management in general and the UK Research Reserve (UKRR) [9] specifically (see SUNCAT and UKRR below). By identifying which organisations hold which items, librarians can make an informed choice on what to stock and what not to stock, as well as which journal subscriptions may need to be cancelled due to financial or space constraints. A number of use cases and case studies [10] illustrating the usage of SUNCAT can be found on the SUNCAT Web site.

SUNCAT also provides access to good-quality bibliographic serials records. In order to aid cataloguing, librarians can consult the MARC records on the Web interface and download records in Dublin Core XML and SUTRS (Simple Unstructured Text Record Syntax) formats using a freely available z39.50 connection. There are approximately 1.2 million CONSER records in SUNCAT, and these records are of a particularly high standard.

In addition, CLs can use an authenticated z39.50 connection to download MARC records directly into their catalogues. This is especially useful when a library is embarking on a retrospective conversion programme. Information about the downloading facility is available on the SUNCAT Web site, including a printable guide of search tips for cataloguers using the Z39.50 connection. Another benefit of being a CL is that these library collections become more visible to others and therefore are consulted more. A benefits and expectations document for libraries [11] can be found on the SUNCAT Web site.

What SUNCAT Does with the Data

The format and quality of bibliographic and holdings data received by SUNCAT differs for each library. It is vital, therefore, to standardise this data as much as possible, to help ensure that records are matched together and that the holdings information is brought together and clearly displayed in SUNCAT. Tailored data specifications are created to normalise data to a suitable form for loading into SUNCAT. This accounts for local cataloguing practices and legacy data.

SUNCAT provides a guide to supplying records for CLs and those thinking of contributing [12]. This includes the process involved in becoming a CL, along with what data should be supplied in an ideal record, based on MARC, though SUNCAT also accepts data from non-MARC libraries. It should also be emphasised that this level of detail is an ideal, and that the entry standard is set to a lower level to allow as many libraries as possible to contribute their serials records to SUNCAT.

SUNCAT aims to de-duplicate records for the same title so that only one record with the best bibliographic data appears for each, with all the libraries holding that title listed underneath this 'preferred' record. This is achieved by running a complex matching algorithm that works on a points scoring system, which compares records and weighs them up against each other. More detailed information on the matching algorithm and the merging process can be found on the SUNCAT Web site. [13]. However, it is not always possible to achieve perfect de-duplication, largely due to the brevity of the data in some of the records supplied to SUNCAT. Therefore, a results list will commonly contain a number of records for the same serial title and each of these may have one or more library's holdings attached, so it is necessary to look at each of these records to establish all the available holdings for that title in SUNCAT [14].

SUNCAT’s Milestones

During the 11 years SUNCAT has been in existence, a number of key changes and developments have taken place that have had an important bearing on its creation and evolution.

Figure 1: SUNCAT timeline

Figure 1: SUNCAT timeline

SUNCAT: The Beginning

A ‘Feasibility Study for a National Union Catalogue’ (UKNUC) [2] was carried out in 2000 for the Joint Information Systems Committee of the Higher Education Funding Councils (JISC), the Research Support Libraries Programme (RSLP) [15] and the British Library’s Co-operation and Partnership Programme.

Having consulted with the user community during the study, it became clear to this group that there was a real need for improved information in the UK about serials in particular. There was a lack of quality in bibliographic and holdings data for serials overall and the data was very variable.

Through the consultation process a number of user requirements were identified. These included:

Initial funding was approved for a scoping study and specification of a serials union catalogue for the UK, which would support research, promote collaboration and integration of library collections, and help ensure free and easy access to serials.

An invitation to tender, initially for two years, was then issued by JISC and RSLP. The contract was awarded to EDINA and its project partner Ex Libris [16], which supplies the Library Management System, ALEPH, that underpins SUNCAT.

SUNCAT: Phase One (2003-2004)

Serials records of 22 libraries, plus CONSER and ISSN, were initially loaded into SUNCAT, so as to populate SUNCAT with a critical mass of titles held in UK research libraries. The records were provided in MARC21 format. In this project phase the libraries of the Universities of Cambridge, Oxford, Edinburgh and Glasgow, along with the National Library of Scotland, worked closely together with the SUNCAT team. A list of Phase 1 CLs can be found on the SUNCAT Web site [17].

Also during this first phase both the SUNCAT Steering Committee (2003-2007) and the SUNCAT Bibliographic Quality Advisory Group (BQAG) (2003-2009) were set up, with members of JISC and CLs providing invaluable help and advice [18].

SUNCAT: Phase Two (Jan 2005-Aug 2007)

The coverage was increased to include specialist collections and older and rarer materials, such as those from the Natural History Museum and the Royal Botanic Gardens (Kew). Over 40 more libraries were added during this time. The pilot project became a service in August 2006. The downloading service commenced in December 2007, enabling staff at CLs to download records from the CONSER database. In April 2009 the ISSN Register was added to the pool of records.

SUNCAT: Beyond Phase Two

Since the end of Phase Two, SUNCAT has strengthened its position as the first reference point for information about serials held in UK libraries. The current 99 Contributing Libraries includes 63 Higher Education libraries and 33 specialist and research libraries, covering wide geographical and subject areas within the UK and Ireland. The serials records of CONSER database, ISSN Register and the Directory of Open Access Journals are also found in SUNCAT. 7 new libraries (4 University and 3 specialist libraries) were added during 2013 and the first half of 2014, and more are expected during the second half of 2014. This shows that SUNCAT is committed to advancing both its geographical and subject scope.

Figure 2: Graph showing the breakdown of current SUNCAT Contributing Libraries by type as of end of September  2014

Figure 2: Graph showing the breakdown of current SUNCAT Contributing Libraries by type as of end of September 2014

SUNCAT is also always looking to improve its functionality, and a number of developments have been made. This includes the downloading facility and ToC (Table of Contents) service.

Changes and Challenges

There have been great changes in the serials landscape in the last 10 years, as well as leaps in technology in general. There are now far more electronic journals than ever before; institutions have less money to pay for titles, though in the main a bigger proportion is spent on journals than on monographs. There has also been a major, though gradual, change in scholarly publishing, especially with the advent of Open Access publishing. Users now expect direct, online access to information.

Within this changing landscape SUNCAT has a very important role to play, directing users to titles held by other libraries and providing links to actual journal articles via OpenURL where available, as well as providing good quality bibliographic serials information which is updated regularly. This is a vital service as library budgets have been cut, so savings in time, money and space are all needed.

To ensure that SUNCAT continues to meet the needs of its end-users and to deal with various changes and challenges, it has become involved in a number of initiatives, resulting in collaboration and linking with other services and activities.


As mentioned earlier, SUNCAT has a particular part to play in collection management in general and the UK Research Reserve (UKRR) in particular: “UKRR is a collaborative and coordinated approach between Higher Education Libraries and the British Library to manage the long-term sustainability of retaining low-use print journals” [19]. Since 2010, EDINA has been providing UKRR with a service to facilitate the identification of the printed serial holdings of the 29 UKRR member libraries. The customised service involves running a script to automatically check a file of records submitted by a UKRR library against the whole SUNCAT database (27 UKRR members are also SUNCAT CLs) and the online catalogues of the two other libraries not contributing to SUNCAT. A report is prepared and sent to UKRR and the resultant data informs decisions about freeing up shelf space in member libraries. This means that library staff no longer have to carry out the checking manually, which results in the saving of a considerable amount of time. During the UKRR cycle 9, which ran from June 2012 to November 2013, lists to be processed were submitted on 29 occasions by 21 UKRR libraries [20].

For more information you can read the ‘UK Research Reserve and SUNCAT’ post on the SUNCAT blog, which was written by Daryl Yang, UKRR Manager [21].

A planned enhancement is to develop a more generic collection management tool to be used by libraries seeking the holdings of a large number of serials titles. (See Future Developments below.)


Knowledge Base+ (KB+) is a new shared community service from Jisc Collections, phase 1 of which was launched in autumn 2012. Its aim is to help UK libraries manage their e-resources more efficiently [22]. KB+ has created a database for electronic resources of information on what subscriptions are on offer to institutions, and what subscriptions institutions then take. The knowledge base includes publication data, subscription information and licence information.

KB has been enhanced by harvesting data from SUNCAT, using an API with the following specifications:

  1. Given a SUNCAT identifier, return the following information:
    • Title
    • Publisher (current, or most recent for those that have ceased publication)
  2. Given a set of identifiers, return the following information for each identifier:
    • Title
    • Publisher (current, or most recent for those that have ceased publication)
  3. Given a partial, or complete, title string, return a list of titles (with identifiers) matching that string
  4. Given a partial, or complete, publisher string, return a list of publisher strings matching the query string
  5. Given a partial, or complete, publisher string, return a list of titles (with identifiers) linked to that publisher string

SUNCAT has contributed significantly to KB+. Approximately 2000 journal titles in KB+ (about 14% of KB+ titles) have a SUNCAT ID and have therefore been retrieved via the API. These allow them to expose links in KB+ to the full catalogue records on SUNCAT.

SUNCAT and Linked Data

There is now a push to make data reusable, through exposing, sharing and connecting structured data via the Semantic Web [23]. With this development in mind, EDINA and SUNCAT in particular have started to explore Open and Linked Data, as part of the DiscoverEDINA Project which ran from December 2011 to October 2012 [24].

The SUNCAT strand was focused on opening up metadata already found in the SUNCAT database, and on offering it in a variety of formats, including RDF (Resource Description Framework) triples, which provides linked data functionality. Opening up such bibliographic data offers the chance for librarians and, indeed, anyone, to reuse the data in order to build innovative services for researchers, teachers, students and librarians. This is something SUNCAT is very keen to be involved in, especially as it encourages inter-connectivity with other services.

The two aspects of the DiscoverEDINA SUNCAT strand were: licensing the reuse of data from SUNCAT CLs; and making that data available in different formats. Both aspects have raised issues, making implementation not as straightforward as first thought.

The first task was to ask SUNCAT CLs if the data they send to SUNCAT could be re-used. With the help of the University of Edinburgh lawyers, a licence was drawn up which would give SUNCAT permission to open up library data. This was then sent to those libraries which expressed an interest in the project.

There are currently six libraries who have signed the licence, five of whom required amendments to the original licence. As with drawing up SUNCAT data specifications to put library data into a form suitable for loading into the database, it quickly became clear that the choice of which data and the format in which they would be made available was decidedly specific to each library.

Essentially, most libraries would allow data of their own creation to be made open, but each library had a different way of identifying these records, so appendices for each licence had to be created to reflect these differences. One library allowed use of all its data, as it was all created in-house. One library restricted the formats in which their data could be released. One library did not want bibliographic records from a specific vendor to be included in its output. One library would allow only specific fields from all of its records to be made open. These were challenging problems, which thankfully were resolved.

The second task was to extract the data from SUNCAT, set up a SPARQL (SPARQL Protocol and RDF Query Language) endpoint for the linked data (RDF triples format) and put all the data into an SRU-enabled database, ready for querying. The interface for the SUNCAT linked data was made available in early 2013.

The SUNCAT CLs which decided that some or all their data could be reused for this project were: the British Library, the National Library of Scotland, the library of the Society of Antiquaries of London, the University of Bristol Library, the University of Glasgow Library and the University of Nottingham Library. Further details on both the reuse of library data and the Linked Data SPARQL endpoint interface can be found on the DiscoverEDINA blog [25].

SUNCAT’s ToC Service

People want seamless access to journal articles. Indeed, the reason why they use SUNCAT is ultimately to locate a journal article. In order to help facilitate this, SUNCAT introduced the Table of Contents (ToCs) service in October 2009. This uses information provided by the ToCs service, Zetoc [26], to support linking through to Tables of Contents. This development resulted from work conducted on the Discovery to Delivery Project [27] by EDINA and Mimas, which ran from 1 August 2008 to 31 July 2009.

The ToCs links appear on the SUNCAT search result screen and at the top of the full record display for a journal title which appears in Zetoc. Each link leads to the most recent issue of the appropriate journal title, as well as presenting the user with an option to link to the full-text article using OpenURL, depending on whether the user has authenticated access to the journal. Currently, there are ToCs links from around 20,000 journal titles, plus conference proceedings on SUNCAT, but this number will expand as new titles are added to Zetoc.

This is an important development for SUNCAT, instantly providing more information about journals found in the database. Article details from ToCs can assist users in distinguishing journals of interest, before establishing their location via the holdings information of the 99 libraries currently available in SUNCAT. Direct access to articles is also possible where available.

SUNCAT has also collaborated with JournalTOCs [28] to develop a RESTful Web service to integrate JournalTOCs data on SUNCAT Web pages. The web service or API is codenamed JASS: Journals and Articles via SUNCAT Services. This will further enhance the SUNCAT ToCs feature, allowing not just current but past and, where available, future issues of journals found in JournalTOCs to display in SUNCAT [29].

Introduction of RDA and FRBR

The SUNCAT bibliographic team are starting to look at the impact of Resource, Description and Access (RDA) on cataloguing practices. RDA is the successor to the AACR2 cataloguing rules, based on the Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records (FRBR) model.

The British Library has already started to implement RDA [30], with other libraries following suit. Some RDA records are already in SUNCAT, making it more of a hybrid catalogue than ever, with several cataloguing standards being used.

As most of the SUNCAT CLs, and SUNCAT itself, will be using the MARC format for the foreseeable future, changes to MARC following the adoption of RDA will need to be monitored. There will certainly be new fields and subfields for indexing and display.

SUNCAT distributed a questionnaire to our CLs, asking if they will be adopting RDA, and, if so, when and how they will be doing this. This is to help ensure that no vital fields are omitted when the library metadata is processed ready for inclusion in SUNCAT. The analysis of the answers has formed the basis of a paper that has been published in ‘Alexandria: the journal of national & international library and information issues’ (0955-7490), in a special RDA-themed issue [31].

Increasing the Visibility of SUNCAT

Another challenge is to ensure that as many people as possible know about SUNCAT and that users get the most out of using it. The SUNCAT Team is always working on increasing the visibility of the service, and has used a number of ways to raise awareness and to communicate news and developments.

Creation of SUNCAT Support Documentation

Various support documentation is available on the Web site [32]. Examples include: user guides; information on more technical aspects such as searching SUNCAT via z39.50 and OpenURL linking to SUNCAT; and FAQs. One recently created document explains how librarians can integrate SUNCAT into library Web sites and services. This helps them to introduce and promote the service to their own users.

Creation of SUNCAT Demonstration Video

A short video introducing SUNCAT [33] has been created, which demonstrates basic and advanced searching, filtering, sorting of results, the Table of Contents facility and how to get help.

Use of Social Media

There has been a SUNCAT blog in existence for some time, but recently its use has been extended. In order to promote interest in SUNCAT and the data it contains, there is a now a series of light-hearted posts on weird and wonderful titles found in SUNCAT. Details of which libraries have recently been updated are also posted, along with information on new CLs. A series of posts on SUNCAT feature libraries was also started late in 2013, and designed to give CLs an opportunity to tell people about their library, focusing on their serials collections.

A new-look SUNCAT blog [34] was launched in June 2013 to coincide with, as well as reflect, the new SUNCAT user interface. The blog is becoming an increasingly important way of communicating regularly to end-users. One particular example of this is posting information on the new SUNCAT development work. (See Future Developments for further information.)

SUNCAT is also on Twitter (@suncatteam) [35], with automatic tweets being sent out when a blog post goes up, along with tweets sent about events being attended by the SUNCAT team. In addition, SUNCAT has an online presence on Facebook [36]. Again the SUNCAT blog feeds into the Facebook page.

SUNCAT is very keen on increasing its use of social media, as it encourages communication with its stakeholders as well as raises awareness of the service.

SUNCAT Newsletter

SUNCAT newsletters [37] come out at least once a year, providing a round-up of news and developments. They can be found on the SUNCAT Web site. Information about the SUNCAT Newsletter, as well as other news throughout the year, is also transmitted by various JISCMail lists.

SUNCAT Google Application

In April 2011 a Google application was made available which enables the user to search SUNCAT directly from their iGoogle page or from any Web page where they choose to embed the app. Search options include keyword, title and ISSN [38]. This feature is now no longer available as SUNCAT understands that the application will not be supported by Google in the long term.We have, therefore, not updated it to work with the new interface, though if there is sufficient interest we would be happy to investigate providing an alternative as a future development.

Participation at Conferences and Seminars

Members of the SUNCAT team attend and take part in relevant conferences and seminars, for example the UKSG (UK Serials Group) Conference [39], Ex Libris Products User Group, UK and Ireland (EPUG-UKI)[40] meetings, ARLIS/UK & Ireland [41] meetings and CIGS (CILIP Cataloguing and Indexing Group Scotland) [42] events. This gives SUNCAT the chance to keep up to date with developments in the serials landscape, to tell people about the service, and also to talk with end-users, especially the CLs.

SUNCAT presented a poster at the Umbrella 2013 Conference in Manchester, entitled ‘SUNCAT: Transforming the service to create an open bridge from resource discovery to access.’ [43]

Another notable development was the EDINA Serials Forums during March 2014 [44], which were free half-day events which focused on some of the key issues and problems in journal management, with presentations and discussion of the overarching themes, and successful approaches to addressing them. This brings together with SUNCAT the other journal-focused EDINA activities, the Keepers Registry [45] and the UK LOCKSS Alliance [46] which focus on long-term access to journal content.

Users and Feedback

As well as looking at changes and challenges, the SUNCAT Team has endeavoured to obtain and analyse feedback from users of SUNCAT. Ever since its inception SUNCAT has engaged directly and collaborated with its stakeholders, who have given invaluable help and advice.

Impact Surveys

There have been a number of surveys carried out to find out what end-users think of the service, how they use it and how they think it might be improved. The feedback gathered helps to inform requirements for the current redevelopment of the service. The latest SUNCAT survey was conducted online between November 2012 and January 2013 [47].

2012-13 Survey

The responses were very positive and encouraging. 97% of respondents indicated that they would recommend SUNCAT to others, citing its speed and ease of use, the clear holdings information and display, and the comprehensive coverage of serials data in one source. The most popular reason for using SUNCAT is locating journals and articles, but this is closely followed by checking bibliographic data. 89% reported that their work would take longer without SUNCAT.

Comments from respondents included:

It is such a comprehensive reference source it would take me much longer to check information elsewhere.
I'd be searching in more than one place which would take longer. Plus SUNCAT gives a picture across the research landscape of holdings and specialisms which is very useful.
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!

Surveys are particularly invaluable to find out what users of the service want. However, some of the suggested improvements are very much dependent on the quality of data received from the CLs, such as the suggestion to provide more detailed holdings information and additional information, for example on electronic resource providers and licence restrictions on lending. Here it must be noted that CLs can improve their data by upgrading their records using SUNCAT as a cataloguing tool as mentioned above. As well as having good-quality records from CONSER and ISSN, SUNCAT contains records from UKRR libraries which provide more detailed holdings information. Other recommendations concerning the improvement of the interface and searching are now beginning to be addressed in the re-development of SUNCAT (see SUNCAT Quality Improvement Plan below).

An important fact to come out of these surveys is that most of the respondents are library and information professionals. Students and researchers are among other groups with which SUNCAT needs to engage more if SUNCAT is to be used by all kinds of people who are likely to find the service valuable. One approach is to encourage libraries themselves to promote SUNCAT on their web pages. To this end, a document on integrating SUNCAT into library Web sites and services, such as OPAC and other discovery systems, has been created [48].

Conducting surveys is also a very good way of identifying people who are willing to be interviewed further. The information gained in this way is then used for testimonials and case studies.

Case Studies

A number of case studies have been produced, which show specific examples of how people are using SUNCAT to help support their day-to-day activities. At the moment, three case studies are available to look at on the SUNCAT Web site. They are: Loughborough University Library [49], North West Libraries Interlending Partnership (NWLIP) [50] and the UK Research Reserve (UKRR) [51].

Future Developments

By looking at the developments and problems emerging in the serials landscape, and also gathering feedback from end-users, the SUNCAT team has been able to identify and start work on future enhancements and developments.

Reasons for Redevelopment

The impetus for this redevelopment emerged from a desire not only to provide enhanced functionality but also to be able to be more responsive to user feedback regarding suggested improvements.

Work commenced on the first phase of this development in spring 2012, with EDINA starting to design and implement an entirely new user interface for the SUNCAT service. The Web interface has been developed in-house, using the open source enterprise search platform Solr [52] to support highly efficient searching across the millions of SUNCAT records.

EDINA considered a number of different search platform options, but Solr proved to be the best solution for dealing with the complex issues around searching and displaying records grouped into matched sets, a central component of the SUNCAT service. Moving to this open source platform should allow EDINA to have greater control and flexibility over the functionality and presentation of SUNCAT.

The new interface [53] and the existing Aleph interface (termed ‘Original SUNCAT’) have been running in parallel since October 2013 to allow people to get used to the new-look SUNCAT. In March 2014, the new SUNCAT interface became the primary means of accessing the SUNCAT database, and on 26 September 2014 the original SUNCAT interface was retired. Help text has been provided and some ‘Quick Start’ guides and other documentation have been created [54][55]. In addition, the SUNCAT team demonstrated the functionality available in the new interface and shared with all participants the plans for further developments at the series of EDINA Serials Forums held in March 2014.

New and Improved Features

One key area of improvement is the ability to filter search results to holdings from multiple libraries and locations. These filters will include all the individual locations of each of our contributing libraries, rather than just locations at an institutional level, as with the current SUNCAT Mobile app service (more details below). Another benefit will be that users will be able to select multiple locations and/or institutions by which to filter their search, so giving them greater flexibility. The filters will now also ensure that users only see the holdings from locations or institutions in which they are interested, as any extraneous holdings will no longer be displayed. These improvements mean that in the future EDINA will be able to provide customised views onto the service, configurable at both the individual user level, and also at a higher geographic, subject specialist or consortia level.

Another key improvement is in the area of post-search filters, which will enable people to make use of faceted browsing to lead to the most relevant journal titles and holdings. A list of post-search filters is available on the left-hand side of the search results page. These filters are:

Users are able to combine these filters.

Work has also been carried out to improve the ‘exact title’ search, through the refining of the exact search rules [56]. These include:

This work results in directing users quickly and easily to information about specific titles of interest without the distraction of seeing similar or related titles. An autocomplete feature has also been added so that you will be able to see partially-matched titles as you type, even though you might have selected the 'exact title' index.

There is now more integrated information about the CLs. From the holdings display you can link to the library Web site, contact details, Google directions, the British Library code (for inter-library loans) and the date when the library’s data were last updated in SUNCAT. Links to the local catalogues of holding libraries are also available on the holdings display, enabling you to check information directly at the source.

Other areas of new functionality will follow throughout 2015.

Mobile-friendly SUNCAT

The improvements to the geographic limits are particularly important for the mobile application which is currently being explored. A SUNCAT mobile app would allow users to find copies of journals, and also discover the nearest library to their current location. Maps and directions to the library may also be offered. The new SUNCAT Web interface itself now has a much more responsive layout to support viewing in mobiles and tablets.

Figure 3: Screenshot of the new SUNCAT interface, captured on 10 October 2014

Figure 3: Screenshot of the new SUNCAT interface, captured on 10 October 2014

The main reasons for preferring the design above included:

A beta version of the new platform was made available for a limited time in early April 2013, with end-users invited to try it out and provide feedback through an online survey or emails sent to the EDINA helpdesk. Overall, the response to the beta version was very positive. A summary of this user feedback on the re-developed service can be found on the SUNCAT Web site [57].

SUNCAT Quality Improvement Plan

As mentioned earlier, EDINA regularly conducts online surveys to gather feedback on both user satisfaction with and suggestions for improvements to the service. Suggested improvements are analysed by EDINA and incorporated into future development plans where they are technically feasible and considered of overall benefit to SUNCAT's users. EDINA compiles these into a regularly updated Quality Improvement Plan [58]. The plan details EDINA's response to each suggestion and provides an indication of timescale for development if appropriate. The plan has recently been updated with new suggestions from the last survey conducted in June 2014 [59], but also includes a summary of completed development work from earlier survey suggestions.

Feedback on the New-look SUNCAT

The latest survey on the new-look SUNCAT ran from the end of May to the end of June 2014. There was a largely positive response from 43 different institutions, but some areas for improvement were also identified. The main problem encountered by respondents was a compatibility issue with using older versions of the Internet Explorer browser, which has since been rectified [60]. 91% of respondents to the survey indicated that they found the new service better than the original one.

The most popular features on the new SUNCAT with the highest proportion of respondents reporting that they were either 'Very useful' or 'Quite useful' were:

More detailed information can be obtained from the report on the June 2014 survey results [59].

Any difficulties, as well as suggested improvements, which are identified in such surveys illustrates the importance to SUNCAT of receiving feedback from actual end-users when possible. As a result of this latest survey we will be giving further consideration to each of the suggested improvements and where possible investigate developing these as part of future releases. In some cases the developments are already in the pipeline and the survey provides an additional confirmation of their potential usefulness [61].

Creation of a New Matching Algorithm

Work has started on developing the existing matching algorithm to yield better de-duplication. Since September 2014 it is now possible for users to suggest matches for records that have not been linked by the algorithm, using the ‘Suggest a Match’ feature, which appears on the results list. This allows users to select and submit records they think are a match. It is hoped that these suggestions will inform any future development.

Work on a SUNCAT Collection Management Tool

One of the requests given in the user feedback was a way of retrieving customised reports which can be used to inform collection management practices. This is something SUNCAT considers would be a very useful and important feature, and work is currently being undertaken to achieve this.

Move to Aleph Version 20

In early 2014, SUNCAT was migrated from version 18 to version 20 of the Aleph software. One benefit of the upgrade has been an improvement in de-duplication. This is due to the development work to improve matching carried out on SUNCAT’s behalf by Ex Libris having been applied to v20. The redeveloped service therefore also benefits from this as its data matching would be as on v20.

Other Developments

SUNCAT is hoping to expand the download service, and is currently surveying the CLs about the existing MARC21 records downloading service and how they would like to see this develop.

SUNCAT is also actively looking to add new CLs, to include further large Higher Education institutions but also a number of specialist libraries with strong subject collections. These libraries would expand the geographic and subject coverage of the catalogue and increase the number of unique titles in SUNCAT.

Linking to Other Services

SUNCAT has started doing some work with JUSP (Journal Usage Statistics Portal) [62] data, with the aim of creating a simple demo of functionality, showing: a short list of institutions; a short list of journals; a small choice of years (2010-2013); choice of an institution, journal and year - we can show a summary provided by the JUSP API and both a summary of the journal's usage over the year, and a monthly breakdown.

There is also the possibility of SUNCAT linking to the Keepers Registry [45]. The Keepers Registry acts as a global monitor on the archiving arrangements for electronic journals, and was developed by EDINA, the national data service centre at the University of Edinburgh, and the ISSN International Centre in Paris. There are at the moment nine participating archiving agencies, each running a programme for the archiving of e-journals and making metadata on the journals in their programme available to the Keepers Registry. The purpose of linking SUNCAT to the Keepers Registry is to make it as straightforward as possible for users of the SUNCAT service (without leaving the service) to find out if a particular electronic journal is in an archiving programme, and if so, which keeper or keepers is archiving the journal, along with the extent of the archiving.


The occasion of SUNCAT’s 10th anniversary in 2013 has been an ideal opportunity to look back at why the service was created in the first place, how it has developed, and how it endeavours to address and adapt to the ever-changing scholarly environment. SUNCAT has come a long way since its inception back in 2003, and has become an established service which is continually adapting to changes in technology and to the requirements of its users. SUNCAT is continuing to advance and develop in line with what is happening in the academic environment, incorporating innovations, introducing different technologies, and working with others in order to offer a more seamless service. Examples include SUNCAT’s established ToC facility and downloading services, the current re-development of the new interface, and work being undertaken on various improvements such as the matching algorithm and a collection management tool. Further collaboration and flexibility is now possible and indeed required, especially through the ability to create a library-specific view for various groups of users. It is vital not to see SUNCAT as a stand-alone service, but to work with and contribute to other services, whilst listening to end-users and taking their needs into account, and sharing data and expertise. To this end, SUNCAT has been actively working on Linked Data initiatives and with such services as JUSP, the Keepers Registry, Zetoc, and JournalTOCs.


The author would like to thank members of the SUNCAT Team past and present for their help in writing this article. We would like to acknowledge the continued support of Jisc for the SUNCAT service.


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Author Details

Celia Jenkins
SUNCAT Bibliographic Assistant
University of Edinburgh
160 Causewayside House

Email: c.jenkins@ed.ac.uk
Web site: http://edina.ac.uk/

Celia Jenkins has been a member of the SUNCAT Bibliographic Team since 2008, processing and checking the data received from the Contributing Libraries. She also writes for and maintains the SUNCAT blog.