SUNCAT: So long, and thanks for all the fish!

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!)

SUNCAT Contributing Libraries: how to get involved with the NBK

Bethan Ruddock, the NBK Project Manager, has written a few words on how the SUNCAT libraries can contribute to the NBK. I hope that you find this useful, and that it encourages you to contact the NBK team, if you haven’t done so already!

I would like to reiterate – as I’m sure that I will be doing a lot over the next few months – that we really appreciate the work that our Contributing Libraries have put into sending us data over the years. SUNCAT would be nothing without the libraries, and their enthusiasm. May this carry on with contributions to the NBK!

Bethan says:

The Jisc National Bibliographic Knowledgebase (NBK) is a project to aggregate bibliographic data at scale and link with a number of other data sources to inform library collection management decisions and to help users more effective find, access and use print and digital scholarly resources.

The NBK data will support 3 main services: resource discovery, collection management, and catalogue record download. The resource discovery service with take over from the current Copac and SUNCAT services at the end of July 2019.

To ensure continued excellent coverage of UK serials holdings as established by SUNCAT, we would like to invite and encourage all current SUNCAT contributors to contribute their data to the NBK. This invitation isn’t limited to serial holdings: we’d be very pleased to get full catalogues from you. For SUNCAT contributors, we are offering the option of sending an initial contribution of serial holdings, allowing you time to consider sending your full holdings later.

More information on contributing can be found at (login with Shibboleth / Open Athens, or contact to request access). If you have any questions about the NBK, or would like to arrange to contribute, we’d be very pleased to hear from you at



SUNCAT and the NBK – a webinar

We would like to invite members of our Contributing Libraries to a joint webinar hosted by SUNCAT and the NBK (National Bibliographic Knowledgebase). This webinar will take place on the 20th November, 2018, at 2:30 pm for an hour.

We will cover the impending retirement of SUNCAT, and the service until then. Bethan Ruddock, the NBK Project Manager, will introduce the National Bibliographic Knowledgebase, and inform the SUNCAT Contributing Libraries on joining the NBK. We expect that half of the webinar will be open to the floor for any questions that you might have regarding SUNCAT and the NBK.

If you wish to have any background information regarding the SUNCAT retirement, we have a blog post on the subject.

If you wish to join the webinar, please register at this link.

We would suggest that at least one member of the SUNCAT Contributing Libraries register for this event, in order to receive the most current information regarding the SUNCAT retirement and the handover to the NBK.

Slides and notes will be reproduced in a SUNCAT blog post after the event, and a transcript of the questions and answers will be sent to attendees, and included as part of the blog post. If there is demand, we may re-run and update the webinar.

If you have any questions, please contact the SUNCAT team at We look forward to seeing you at the webinar.

Sunsetting SUNCAT

SUNCAT will end as a service on the 31st July 2019.  The rationale for retiring SUNCAT comes from a lengthy consultation with the academic library community that resulted in a requirement for a new service that was capable of working at much greater scale to deliver a comprehensive view onto the bibliographic and holdings data of all UK academic libraries.  A new national service is in development that will supersede both the SUNCAT service and its sister service, Copac. The Jisc National Bibliographic Knowledgebase (NBK) will be a national-scale aggregated bibliographic database which will facilitate resource discovery, collection management and cataloguing.

It is business as usual for now for SUNCAT, please continue to send data.  EDINA and Jisc will co-host a webinar later in the year with a fuller update and time line on the process of retiring SUNCAT.  EDINA will also send out regular updates to keep you informed.

To achieve the goal of comprehensive coverage, Jisc would like to encourage current SUNCAT contributors to start submitting their data to the NBK as soon as possible in order that the transition between services is as smooth as possible. The intention is to launch the NBK ‘live’ service in February 2019. It will then run in parallel with SUNCAT until its retirement at the end of July 2019.  If you’d like to send your data, discuss the benefits of joining the NBK, or have any other questions about the NBK, please contact

Should you have queries regarding SUNCAT service retirement, please contact  If you have any queries regarding the NBK, please contact

MediaHub Service Changes Update: MediaPlus and the future of this blog

Following on from previous notification please note that from today, 1 September 2016, the MediaHub subscription service is no longer available. However, all the multimedia content that Jisc has licensed for use by higher and further education institutions, which is currently accessed via the MediaHub subscription, is available through a new service, MediaPlus, at

This blog is currently being retained as an archive, so that the blog posts and resources around using multimedia content in teaching and learning remain available to the Higher and Further Education community. The blog will not be actively updated and if you have any questions about the content, please email:


Recent improvements to SUNCAT

A recent release of SUNCAT includes two new features: My SUNCAT, and a serials holdings comparison service.


My SUNCAT allows users to sign in to SUNCAT and save searches to reuse at a later date,  save records and organise them into lists, and create custom groups of libraries and locations to use in searches.   To find out more please see our My SUNCAT Guide.

Serials Holdings Comparison service

We’re also pleased to announce that the holdings comparison service that SUNCAT offers to the UKRR has been extended to enable libraries to run their own serials holdings comparisons against the data held in SUNCAT.   This free tool allows libraries to compare holdings for serials across more than 100 UK academic and research libraries.  Libraries can discover which serials are rare or unique, which are widely held and which are marked for UKRR retention.  Analysis can be made at the national level or the local level by selecting particular libraries to include in the comparison.

The results can help libraries make decisions about:

  • Keeping older print serials or moving them into storage
  • Deselecting lower use print serials if commonly held
  • Collaborating with other libraries to ensure sustainable access to at least one copy of a serial
  • Cancelling or renewing current subscriptions depending on alternative access locally or via ILL.

To find out more about using the serials holdings comparison service, please see

Mediahub Service Changes

From 1 September 2016 the MediaHub subscription service will no longer be available. However, all the multimedia content that Jisc has licensed for use by higher and further education institutions, which is currently accessed via the MediaHub subscription, will be made available through a new service, MediaPlus.

MediaPlus will be hosted and delivered to existing, and new, subscribers by Alexander Street, a ProQuest Company with a strong presence in the UK academic sector. All Jisc-licensed news, film, image and music content including high profile collections such as ITN, Getty images and Wellcome Library images and sound will continue to be available to you, but new content, services and benefits will also be included such as Teachers’ TV and other cross-searchable collections, hence the name MedaPlus. The new service will be available at on 1st September.

As part of the transition between MediaHub and MediaPlus, during the month of August the current service will still be available with maintenance being kept to a minimum.

For more information about MediaPlus, please contact:

The Rights Registry: learning, sharing and growing

Work has been continuing on the SafeNet Rights Registry, with the database now containing entries for 178 publishers. Some of these publisher entries contain information on more than one policy, for example the NESLi2 publishers. We have just started testing the registry with libraries and the feedback has been very positive.

Photograph of seedlings

Seedling. Kevin Doncaster, 2016. Available via Flickr – Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

Finding Information on Publisher Policies

Around 370 publishers have been identified from a number of sources, including:

  • Publishers of journals which an (anonymised) UK university subscribes to. (Many of these titles are part of ‘big deals’ offered by larger publishers.)
  • Publishers found in consortial directories of publishers and suppliers, such as that of CEIRC (CAUL Electronic Information Resources Consortium) and the UC San Diego Library California Digital Library
  • List of STM members
  • List of Hinari publishers
  • Publishers participating in CLOCKSS
  • Publishers registered with the NISO SERU Initiative

In many cases, it has proved difficult to find policy statements on continuing and post-cancellation access on publisher’s websites. When this information is identified it is nearly always a very general statement that does not map onto our vocabulary in the Rights Registry, especially with regards to mechanisms allowed and any costs to be incurred by the licensee. In some instances, the publisher website contains no information at all on terms and conditions of use of subscribed content.

In general, PCA policy information is found in the ‘information for librarians’ section of the website, either in the actual institutional site licenses/license agreement documents or in terms and conditions of use. It is interesting to note that in some cases PCA and archiving information does not appear in the license agreement or on the terms and conditions page itself, but on a separate page elsewhere on the website.

In order for a PCA policy to be actionable, as well as being up-to-date it needs to be explicit and not just implied. When trying to populate the registry it is clear to see how vital it is to contact publishers in order to clarify their policies. This echoes what libraries themselves are needing to do. The NESLi2 licenses continue to be the most detailed and specific, certainly when it comes to PCA policy.

Contacting Publishers

As a first step to address this, we have drafted a post-cancellation access policy document to ask publishers to specify their arrangements. This draft form is based on the Rights Registry database structure: our objective is to test if publishers will engage with this level of detail.

An image of the draft SafeNet Rights Registry post-cancellation policy document (April 2016) which is sent to publishers.

The draft SafeNet Rights Registry Publisher Post-Cancellation Policy Criteria Document, April 2016.

We have emailed some of the publishers where we cannot find PCA information, so as to briefly introduce SafeNet and the Rights Registry and to ask where we could find information on their PCA policies. It will be interesting to assess the extent to which publishers have fully formed PCA policies and if they are willing to specify them. In a future blog post we will report on our conversations and progress.

Next Steps

We will be continuing to identify publishers to add to the Rights Registry and to contact them to clarify their policies. We will also continue to refine the draft criteria form we are requesting publishers fill in, so as to make it as clear and productive as possible. Feedback from publishers plays a very important part in shaping this.

Currently, we have provided access to the initial Rights Registry to a limited number of library colleagues who are providing invaluable feedback, especially on the areas of vocabulary and fields used and data recorded. We now plan to share the registry with other interested parties. Your participation and feedback is welcomed. Please get in touch at if you would like to get involved. It is inevitable that we will need to make changes as we discover the nature of PCA information and learn what and how this information needs to be recorded.

By The Way …

If you were at the UKSG conference in April this year you may have seen Adam’s lightning talk on SafeNet. If you missed it or would like to see it again there is a video of the presentation available: SafeNet: improving the provision of post-cancellation access

The Rights Registry: Moving in the right direction

In our previous blog post we discussed the Entitlement Registry and its role in SafeNet. Librarians are spending large amounts of time trawling emails, paper documents, websites and contacting publishers to ensure the licenses they have comply with institution policies, and to determine their access rights when budgeting renewals. Having a registry to discover publisher’s stated perpetual access rights will help save time and effort and be of benefit to both libraries and the academic community as a whole.

Over recent months, we have been reviewing publisher licenses and have started recording the perpetual access rights information found within. Our goal at this early stage is to understand the information end-users require with regards to perpetual access. What information do you need at your fingertips in order to save time? What information would help you make well-informed decisions?

We aim to provide a clear window onto information provided by publishers with regards to perpetual access. This will require not only the analysis of the rights for each publisher, but also access to license documents or at least links to these to help prove that the information is authoritative.

We’ve established an initial database which allows us to record key information about a publisher and its license, and how that license or policy covers perpetual access. For example, is perpetual access permitted? To what range of material do the rights apply? Are fees required?

Having started to populate the database with information from NESLi2 licences found in KB+ and non-NESLi2 policy information found directly on publisher websites we are revising the flexibility of the database design to handle specific conditions and exceptions. As we continue to look at publisher license documents and terms and conditions we are getting a better understanding of the information we have to record which, in turn, informs us on the design of a system that handles the variations.

Photopgraph of a road sign beside a road, showing a windy gravel road for the next 10 km.

Winding roads ahead!  Direction. Jackie.Ick, 2013. Available under CC Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0) (


As we dive into the details we are encountering numerous challenges. It has been very informative to explore the different publishing policies and how they cover perpetual access. Small and medium size publishers, such as some University publishers and scholarly society publishers, often host their journals on one or more platforms, each with different policies. Publishers have their own license agreements, as well as their NESLi2 ones, and each license can differ in their expressions of their policies.

Even at this very early stage, it is very apparent that there is a great need for clarity on perpetual access rights, especially when it comes to non-NESLi2 licenses. These rights are either not specified or are not specific enough. Open Access publishers and publishers who are registered participants in the NISO SERU initiative in particular recognise the importance of continued access to journal content, but here again the specific arrangements by which rights can be satisfied are not specified or are ambiguous.

As we attempt to populate the Rights Registry we are ending up with a high number of ‘unknown/unspecified’ fields in the database. This reflects our conversations with librarians who are finding it difficult to determine what rights they have for what journal, if indeed they have any rights at all. It is therefore vital to get clarification from both publishers and journal platforms. If this can be achieved then this will be of real benefit for everyone concerned.

Next step

Having gathered information for several different kinds of publishers the next step is to speak with librarians, demonstrating the Rights Registry as it stands, getting feedback on it and making sure that the service proposition will help improve library workflows and save effort. These discussions will help identify the essential building blocks needed and will feed in to the design and future population of the database.

We will also speak with publishers to discuss the issues raised by our findings so far. We would like to understand what we could do to improve clarity of rights: clarifying the publisher’s position and the interpretation of their licenses will help us, and will also encourage this clarity to be translated into future license language.

Ultimately, the Rights Registry has to provide clear and authoritative data on perpetual access rights which will be easy to find and interpret, and fit in with existing workflows of end-users. This can only be achieved if both publishers and librarians come together and move forward in the same direction.

If you would like to help by contributing to our design and testing, please get in touch at and we’ll arrange a short conversation to outline our plans.

The Entitlement Registry: the key to SafeNet

We’ve had some staffing changes here at EDINA. Robbie Ireland left to join the BBC in an exciting new role, and Celia Jenkins has taken over as Project Officer for SafeNet. Welcome, Celia!

Happy New Year! As well as being the first blog post of the year, this is my first blog post as the new SafeNet Project Officer. These are exciting times for SafeNet, so I am thrilled to now be part of the team.

This is not my first experience of working with serials. I have been working as SUNCAT Bibliographic Assistant in EDINA for seven years. How time flies! SUNCAT is a Serials Union Catalogue for the UK research community, delivered by on behalf of Jisc. As part of this job I process and check the bibliographic data sent to us by over 100 UK libraries, plus CONSER, ISSN and the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ). I was also previously a Research Assistant with Professor Charles Oppenheim and Dr Steve Probets (at Loughborough University), working on a joint project with Bill Hubbard of SHERPA (based at the University of Nottingham) to improve the coverage and functionality of the SHERPA/RoMEO database. This involved analysing publishers’ Copyright Transfer Agreements using a specially created controlled vocabulary. This work was part of the Jisc/SURF ‘Partnering on Copyright’ programme, which had the aim of providing information and help to those involved with open access and scholarly communications, focusing on balanced approaches in copyright for achieving optimal access to scholarly information through open access.

An image of Bergman's Lock and Key store.

Bergman’s Lock and Key. By Tom Harpel from Seattle, Washington, United States, 2004 ( – image description page) [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons.

The Entitlement Registry: the authoritative key to SafeNet

It is clear that the Entitlement Registry is a core component of SafeNet. The overall aim of SafeNet is to ensure that the right people (authorised users) get the right information (full text content) at the right time (continual access), and so the right data to enable this is crucial. This is where the Entitlement Registry comes in.

The Entitlement Registry has two main functions:
1. To act as the source of authorisation to licensed content in the SafeNet Archive, thereby ensuring people get access to what they are entitled to.
2. To provide librarians with clear, concise and authoritative information on the entitlement rights that institution has to their subscribed content.

It will, therefore, need to contain a wide range of information: institution’s entitlement rights; the list of journals these rights pertain to; and evidence of these rights. Obtaining and processing such information to populate the Entitlement Registry is going to be a challenging task. It will require working closely with both publishers and libraries, collecting data from different sources and of varying quality.

Data needed for success

It is crucial that the data in the Entitlement Registry is reliable and complete enough to grant users access to journal content. With regards to historic (past and present) entitlements, we anticipate that entitlements rights will need to be clarified, especially for smaller publishers. We will be establishing a systematic process for verification over time as we get more experience with the data issues that arise. For now, we are undertaking a series of ‘acquisition exercises’ to focus on specific data sets and working with libraries and publishers to assess the data quality. Looking to the future, we hope that we can establish processes to capture information in a more systematic way, with the goal of reducing the sense of ambiguity that currently exists.

In order that all stakeholders can have trust in the authority of the registry, we are analysing the post-cancellation entitlement rights found in publishers’ licensing agreements in a standard and methodical way. To enable this, we are developing a controlled vocabulary. This has to be comprehensive enough so that it is able to cover post-cancellation rights found across the range of publisher licenses. It also has to be intuitive and not overly complex, both so that people can easily see what the permitted rights are to subscribed content and so that others may be able to analyse entitlement rights and help populate such a database in future.

Throughout September 2015, the SafeNet team conducted a series of interviews with UK HE institutions to understand the quality of their entitlement records, how they use these records in the renewal process, and the recurrent problems that libraries face in the post-cancellation access domain. Having access to their entitlement rights and understanding these emerged as key issues for librarians, and we are hoping that the work described above to clarify the permitted post-cancellation access arrangements for a variety of publishers will have a significant impact on library practises.

Next steps

Our next step is to look at how post-cancellation access is covered in publishers’ licensing agreements. We are starting with NESLi2 licences: Jisc investment in this area is paying off as we can easily find current and historic NESLi2 licenses in the KB+ service. By analysing these licenses we can identify what information needs to be recorded in the registry and develop a controlled vocabulary (list of fields) and their definitions. This vocabulary can then be used to populate the registry. This process will be very interesting, identifying similarities and differences to licenses and working out what needs to be represented and differentiated. In this initial phase, it will definitely be a case of learning and adapting.

Ultimately, what SafeNet hopes to achieve is to make the post-cancellation access process as reliable, authoritative and efficient as possible, working with libraries and publishers to provide a national entitlement registry and archive. This is a complex process to improve, but through collaboration and co-ordination it is one that is not only achievable but also extremely valuable to the scholarly community.