logo of UKRR Case Study: UK Research Reserve (UKRR) Use of SUNCAT

Quote: The importance of SUNCAT to the UKRR is the timeliness of the data and the reliability and quality of the data.
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This case study is based on an interview with Frances Boyle, UKRR Manager. Please note that Frances is now an Assistant Director with Imperial College London Library and that the new UKRR Manager is Daryl Yang.


June 2011

Details of Service

The UK Research Reserve (UKRR) is a collaborative distributed national research collection managed by a partnership between the Higher Education sector and the British Library.

It has two primary objectives:

  • To protect research information within the UK Higher Education (HE) library sector
  • To enable UK HE libraries to free up space by de-duplicating their holdings of low use print research journals.

UKRR ensures that disposal of these low use journals only occurs in a coordinated manner, guaranteeing that two sets of equivalent holdings are maintained in UKRR member libraries, plus a third in the British Library.

Scale and Impact of Service

UKRR is concerned with research material from all subject areas, science, technology, medicine, humanities, business, social sciences, law etc.

It is funded by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) and as such is concerned with HE, although there has been interest from the museums sector.

UKRR has 29 member libraries. It commenced in 2009 and is funded for five years. By 2014 the aim is to have saved around 100km of space. Currently around 37km of material has been processed, representing 25,000 unique holdings which member libraries have been able to de-duplicate.

The key driver for libraries is to make the best use of space. The current cost of institutional real estate means that having long runs of little used hard copy journals may not represent the best value for money. By de-duplicating holdings libraries are able to reinvest and repurpose the space, making best use of it. For example, improving the student experience with more social learning space. Libraries also save money by no longer maintaining these physical collections, reducing shelving and bibliographic data maintenance costs.

Joining UKRR also ensures that member libraries have continued access to research material. Members have 24 hour British Library guaranteed desktop delivery to any material, whether UKRR material or not.


The following methodology is used by UKRR to conduct scarcity checking in order to make decisions on journal holdings which are at risk, and should be retained, and those where sufficient copies exist, so may be de-duplicated across the community.

  1. Member libraries supply the UKRR team with a list of journal holdings they wish to dispose of. Details include bibliographic information, e.g. title and ISSN and also the specific holdings, including volume and issue information.
  2. The UKRR team send this data to SUNCAT. The SUNCAT team run an automatic script via the Z39.50 connection to SUNCAT to check which other UKRR member libraries hold the journal titles listed. SUNCAT currently contains information about the journal holdings of 27 of the 29 members; so in addition, the script is also run on the Z39.50 connections to these remaining two library catalogues.
  3. SUNCAT then returns a spreadsheet listing the libraries holding the relevant journals, along with each of their summary holdings. The UKRR team then manually check, at volume and issue level, the holdings supplied by SUNCAT with those the member library wishes to dispose of.
  4. Finally the UKRR team count the number of full and partial matches and make a decision on what journal holdings can be deemed as “at risk”. If two or more member libraries hold the exact holdings the journal can be de-duplicated.
  5. The process also benefits SUNCAT as there have been occasions when UKRR have picked up anomalies in the holdings reports provided by SUNCAT.

Key Functionality of SUNCAT for UKRR

“The importance of SUNCAT to the UKRR is the timeliness of the data and the reliability and quality of the data.”

Using SUNCAT provides the most streamlined solution to checking the journals holdings of 29 libraries. Further, initial UKRR working practices revealed that before centralised scarcity checking, the data supplied by the individual member libraries was often inconsistent and inaccurate.

Value of SUNCAT for UKRR

1) Streamlines workflow for UKRR team:

Without SUNCAT UKRR would need to approach several less comprehensive sources of UKRR member libraries holdings and arrange and maintain a number of different Z39.50 connections. SUNCAT presents a much more streamlined solution.

2) Saves time and staff resource for UKRR members:

“Scarcity checking was a real barrier for member libraries…being able to centralise checking huge move forward and has meant that more metreage offered as resource freed up to do more UKRR activities"

Without the work of the SUNCAT team scarcity checking would once again become the responsibility of member libraries. In the past the UKRR team found this process to be extremely time intensive and consuming. One institution reported taking over 90 hours to check 125 titles, an average of 40 minutes per title.

3) Reduces risk:

Another benefit of the work of the SUNCAT team is to reduce the risk for UKRR of making decisions based on inaccurate data. Returning to decentralised scarcity checking would mean that the reliability of the data would decrease, as different people become involved in the checking, leading to problems with inconsistency even within one library, and so increased quality assurance would be required.

4) Increases de-duplication of holdings and release of space:

Centralising scarcity checking has freed up libraries’ time and resources, so they are able to offer up more titles for de-duplication.

What else could SUNCAT do?

“What you are doing now is marvellous ... What you do now is exactly what we want.”

In an ideal world there would be greater consistency of holdings details on SUNCAT so that matching at this level could also be automated. However, in reality, UK HE libraries as a whole do not record holdings consistently so this is a pipe dream.

UKRR is looking to increase the discoverability and visibility of the UKRR collection, to make it more accessible and is always interested to talk to colleagues, such as SUNCAT, to explore possibilities. For instance, further down the road, one wish would be to have a UKRR view onto SUNCAT, so if UKRR disappears after the current funding ends, there would be a view of all the titles in the Research Reserve and details of who holds them.