Questions about the retirement of MNCAT Classic

Why is MNCAT Classic going away?
What changes can we expect to MNCAT?
What will the new MNCAT search?
Can I try out the new MNCAT?
Does this mean we don’t need specialized databases anymore?
But I’m not trying to “discover;” I’m trying to find a specific item.
What is the timeline for these changes?
What about records I've saved in my Aleph basket?
How can I share my thoughts and suggestions with you?

MNCAT Classic to be retired in December 2013

University of Minnesota Libraries will be retiring MNCAT Classic in December 2013. Currently, we’re working on major enhancements to the Libraries’ primary discovery tool, MNCAT, which will be called MNCAT Discovery. Learn more about what we’re doing, and let us know what you value about MNCAT Classic. Please provide your email address if you’d like to be among the first to know when a version of the newest MNCAT is available for user testing.


Why is MNCAT Classic going away?

Five years ago, University Libraries introduced MNCAT Plus, an interface to the Libraries catalog that was optimized to find resources on a topic using keyword searches. MNCAT Plus (later shortened to MNCAT) became the first search box users of the Libraries website see, but MNCAT Classic has been a click away.

In its 2008 version, MNCAT offered an appealing choice for finding anything on a topic, but MNCAT Classic was much more efficient for users who knew what they were looking for, whether by title, author, or even call number.

Maintaining these two search interfaces was a good transitional solution for users of the Libraries in the past. But MNCAT Classic sits on top of an antiquated, 11-year-old library operations management system, which no longer meets contemporary library operational needs. We are replacing this management system in December 2013 and the new system is incompatible with MNCAT Classic. Rather than try to build a new version of MNCAT Classic from scratch, we will retire MNCAT Classic and focus on improving MNCAT.

The MNCAT interface has improved to the point where it delivers good results for a range of searches from broad (anything on a topic) to narrow (a particular title). Although we continue to seek feedback and improve MNCAT, the enhancements to MNCAT will better serve most users while maintaining a high standard for all users.

What changes can we expect to MNCAT?

The biggest change is that each search will now offer access to a much larger portion of the library’s resources than MNCAT. MNCAT will have access to more sources, including almost a billion articles in addition to our 7 million books and media holdings. This index will provide access to the overwhelming majority of what is currently licensed by the Libraries, including everything that is currently searched.

In our 2010 MNCAT surveys, you asked for more and we’re delivering it. In fact, 78 percent of MNCAT Classic users who responded said that they were interested in searching for items outside of our collections, while only 4 percent said that they were only interested in University of Minnesota materials.

What will the new MNCAT search?

EVERYTHING the current MNCAT searches, PLUS publicly available and open access content, and eventually University of Minnesota digital collections, as well as licensed content from publishers like Elsevier, Nature, Springer, and university presses, PLUS publicly available and open access content. Eventually we plan to add UMN digital collections as well.

Can I try out the new MNCAT?

We will have a test site available this summer that searches a subset of our holdings. Until that site is available, you can get an idea of how the new MNCAT will work by trying out the sites at some of our peer institutions, such as Purdue University or University of Iowa. Please provide your email address if you’d like to know when a version of MNCAT is available for user testing.

Does this mean we don’t need specialized databases anymore?

MNCAT provides another way to search the databases we have, but the databases themselves continue to be important. We expect that researchers working in a discipline with well-defined boundaries will continue to use the search capacity within subject-specific databases. 

But I’m not trying to “discover;” I’m trying to find a specific item.

MNCAT is designed to be a discovery system, and is generally well-suited for discovering things you didn’t know about before. MNCAT Classic offered better results to searchers who enter exact titles or other bibliographic information for items they already know about, often referred to as “known item” searching.

Tuning relevance ranking is a tricky problem: if a searcher enters the term “Hamlet,” for example, it’s difficult to know if that person is looking for a copy of Hamlet or for something about Hamlet.

One new feature we think people will appreciate: the ability to browse by title, author, and subject call number.

That said, if you haven’t tried MNCAT for “known item” searching in awhile, we suggest you try again. Both University Libraries staff and our vendor have been working to improve MNCAT for all users for five years. We will continue to configure MNCAT to offer the best possible result set.

What is the timeline for these changes?

We’ll have a “sandbox” available early this summer for you to try out. The sandbox will only have a subset of the records you’d find in our full catalog, but you can use it to get an idea of what will be different. Please provide your email address if you’d like to be among the first to know when a version of the newest MNCAT is available for user testing.

Later in the summer, we plan to have MNCAT running with all its new features. MNCAT Classic will remain available until the end of the Fall 2013 semester.

What about records I've saved in my Aleph basket?

Records that you have saved in your Aleph basket will not be migrated to the new system. If you want to keep them, you should manually save them before December 26, 2013.

How can I share my thoughts and suggestions with you?

We welcome comments about MNCAT Classic, MNCAT, and the changes we will be making. Please provide your email address if you’d like to be among the first to know when a version of the newest MNCAT is available for user testing.

How can I share my thoughts and suggestions with you?

We welcome comments about MNCAT Classic, MNCAT, and the changes we will be making. Please provide your email address if you’d like to be among the first to know when a version of the newest MNCAT is available for user testing.