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Case Study: Loughborough University Library’s Use of SUNCAT

Quote: So by having SUNCAT available, there is a one stop shop to discover who holds a particular title.
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This case study is based on an interview with Jeff Brown, Head of Collection Management, Pilkington Library, Loughborough University.


August 2011

Details of Service

The Pilkington Library at Loughborough University covers 7,777 square metres over three floors with 900 study places, 500,000 books, 90,000 bound serials and provides access to approximately 19,000 e-journals.

Loughborough University has used SUNCAT for two different purposes. Firstly, SUNCAT was used as a source of bibliographic data to update the serials records on the library catalogue. Secondly it is used on an ongoing basis to support the Inter-Library Loan (ILL) service.

Scale and Impact of Service

Loughborough University wanted to add Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSHs) to all existing serials records on the library catalogue. This wish arose following the introduction of LCSHs to replace an in-house subject categorisation previously used at the Library, alongside the purchase of a new discovery tool. The Library team decided it would be desirable to include LCSHs in as many resource records as possible to achieve consistent description and improved access to all resources, including serials.

Although the catalogue included MARC records for all of the Library’s serials, none of the records contained LCSHs so the task of upgrading 15,000-20,000 records would have required a great deal of resource if a ready supply of the appropriate data and an automated process had not been available.

With respect to the ILL service, in normal times, SUNCAT would be the second port of call after the British Library for any journal article requests. However, with recent asbestos problems at the British Library, and the need to find alternative UK sources for ILL requests, Loughborough’s use of SUNCAT has increased.


1) Upgrading serials records

The SUNCAT team provided a Perl script which enabled the automated matching and downloading of records from the SUNCAT MARC record downloading service. The technical team at the Library were able to modify the script so that it would just retrieve records for titles matching those supplied, and therefore held, by Loughborough University. This meant that we now had records returned from other SUNCAT Contributing Libraries holding those titles, plus any appropriate records from the ISSN and CONSER.

The file was downloaded to a local server and then imported into our Aleph system. As a double check we matched the records again on import. We stripped out all the MARC fields, except the 650s and 651s, so adding only these to our existing records. Unfortunately, due to a quirk with our system, we were not able to automatically add these fields to duplicate records for print and electronic serials, but we are gradually updating these manually using the LCSHs from the SUNCAT records.

2) Locating ILL requests

For fulfilling ILL requests the first port of call is the British Library. However, if the request is for a journal article and the British Library is unable to supply the ILL staff then go straight to SUNCAT.

Key Functionality of SUNCAT for Loughborough University

For upgrading serials records free access to a supply of quality MARC records and the ability to export these as a bulk download, saving a lot of time and resource.

“For ILL it’s the location of the serials and the holdings information, including the online and print availability, that is important”

The ILL staff find SUNCAT friendly to use. The particular features highlighted include the holdings summaries, the shelfmark information, the links to the library websites, giving them more information when required, and also the online and print availability. This last feature is important because some libraries will not supply copies from electronic versions, and even though many licences do permit this practice, a lot of libraries have a blanket no lending policy in place.

Value of SUNCAT for Loughborough University

1) Bibliographic data improved local resource discovery and access

“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.”

Adding subject headings to Loughborough University’s serials records means that they are much more visible and accessible to staff and students. Our Academic Librarians are now able to demonstrate subject searches to new students highlighting the range of resources available, including books and journals.

2) Saved time sourcing and matching appropriate serials records

“SUNCAT…saved us a lot of time...”

“…so again it was the one stop shop effort we knew we could get all our serials records from SUNCAT”

Without SUNCAT the task of adding subject headings to around 20,000 records would have taken a great deal of time. It probably would not have been possible to automate much of the process and would have involved much more manual input. We would have had to search around for other sources, such as Copac and others and may have to had to look in quite a few different places for the information. However, as SUNCAT had already matched our records with others for the same titles, it saved a lot of time, enabling us to just find and extract the records we wanted. The use of alternative sources would have required a lot more manual intervention.

3) Saves time locating journal articles to satisfy ILL requests

“So by having SUNCAT available, there is a one stop shop to discover who holds a particular title.”

“Basically it saves us a lot of time in searching for serials holdings and journal articles are probably our major ILL requirement.”

From the ILL point of view we would have to use a number of alternative union catalogues, such as the M25 catalogue and Copac, but neither of these has got the breadth of coverage for journal holdings. Having SUNCAT saves the ILL team a lot of time by providing a one stop shop for locating journal articles.

What else could SUNCAT do?

“We are happy with all the ILL side completely, it’s giving us all the information we require really.”

“As you’ve loaded more libraries it’s become far more successful a tool for our ILL staff and I think it is now after the BL the second port of call so I would say that’s very successful.”

A nice feature would be to have a simple interface where Contributing Libraries can click to download a file of the best records for their serials collection in a variety of formats. This would allow Contributors to instantly improve their catalogue. The ability to bulk download certainly saved Loughborough University a lot of time, so even some information about the Perl script would be useful for other Contributing Libraries.

When have set up the Z39.50 connection and we do use it to download journal records. We generally find that the records contain more fields than we require so the local policy is to strip out a few but it’s far better to have a record with too much information than too little so I would not count this as a problem, just a consequence of our internal practices.

With regard to ILL we don’t have any further suggestions as we are happy with the service as it is.