What did Voyager do for us?


In January librarians across Cambridge will be using a different Library Management System. Voyager has been a (generally!) faithful servant for the last 15 years, and it’s time to move on to a new system that’s better able to cope with the demands of a swiftly changing digital world. Helen will be telling you all about Alma, our new system in due course, but in the meantime, if you notice lines of librarians skulking off to training rooms clutching folders, you’ll know what they’re up to.

Voyager itself will be switched off in its entirety over the holiday period, as the transition to Alma begins. Generally the change should have little noticeable effect on reader usage. Even during the downtime of the Library Management System most things will work as usual. Library collections will still be searchable via iDiscover .  Do remember that most music scores are on the card catalogue, which is not affected by IT hiccups! At long last the card catalogue comes into its own.

Just be aware that as books will have to go on to manual circulation from the end of December, what you see on the system after December 23rd may not always be exact – books may appear to be on the shelf that aren’t, and vice versa, for example. You’ll also be unable during this time to renew books online, make stack requests, request or recall items. Please bear with us, it will only be for a short period, and everything should be up and running by the time the Lent term starts in January.

Any information that you have saved in the ‘My Favourites’ area of iDiscover (pins, searches etc.) will be lost during this time. This will also affect any permalinks to records which you may have saved. If you wish to retain your pinned records, visit this link for further advice.

There will be one vital change to library catalogues with the arrival of Alma, and that will be the end of our old friend, the Newton catalogue. But don’t worry – all the searches that you used to do on Newton will still work on iDiscover, though sometimes in a slightly different way.

For example, Newton was great at finding results, even if you weren’t sure how to spell a name. A good example of this can be seen here, where I’m trying to do a search for Rachmaninoff, but I’m not quite sure of the spelling…


Do your best guesstimate of the spelling of the composer’s name….


Click on the most likely one….


Find the nearest match in the list that comes up…

And you’ve found the composer you want.

This even works with composers where the spelling has changed fairly dramatically.

Again just click on what looks like the most likely composer….

And ditto…

However it’s still possible to do this sort of search on iDiscover. On iDiscover, use a simple search, making sure that it is set to Cambridge Libraries Collections (which will give you all the hard copies held in Cambridge libraries), and (if you’re looking for a UL copy), set the drop down box at the end of the search box to University Library (if you’re looking for a score in the Pendlebury, change the drop-down box to “Music: Pendlebury Library”). Then do exactly the same “guesstimating” the composer’s name as before….


You’ll see here that although no records have been found, it asks if you were intending to search for an alternative spelling. Click on this alternate, and the following page will appear….


If you then click on Scores in the filter field Resource type in the right hand column, it will narrow it down to scores by Rachmaninoff.

iDiscover is also pretty good at guesstimating all by itself. For example if I try the Cherepnin search on there, it comes up with a mixture of results for Cherepnin and Tcherepnin. A quick look through some of the results will soon narrow it down to the correct spelling. You can then click on the appropriate subject heading to find more works by or about the same person.


Now, let’s have a look at some everyday searches, and see how they work. The easiest way to do these is to go to the Advanced Search on iDiscover…

Once you’re there, do the appropriate search. Let’s try to find some scores of Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro. In this case, I’d like to find a score in the Pendlebury Library, so I’ve set the location to there. I’ll now have a look for Mozart under author, and Marriage of Figaro under title.

You’ll notice that just 12 results have been returned – that doesn’t seem very many, so how can we improve on that? A TOP TIP is to search using the original language of the title. If you’re not sure what it is, have a look in Oxford music online (Grove) (Raven password needed outside the UL). Searching for Nozze di Figaro instead of Marriage of Figaro will bring up 53 results (an additional 38 to the earlier search). Use the filters on the right hand side to restrict to scores, sound recordings, or whatever you’re looking for.

The filter fields are a really easy way to narrow down searches, and to find exactly what you need. One real improvement on iDiscover is that you can now search the UL and the Pendlebury simultaneously by applying (and locking) the filters for both.

Simply do a search…

Scroll down to Library and click on Show more to get the full list. Once you’ve done that, run the cursor to the left of the library names, and a tick box will appear.


Click in the relevant boxes, and an Apply Filters box will appear.

If you then click on that, you will be able to search both the UL and the Pen’s collections simultaneously. You can even search your own college library too, all in one go.

There will be plenty of help and advice around iDiscover and the end of Newton nearer the time. Keep watching this space, and check out the LibGuide for iDiscover. Remember to use the card catalogues for music (they’re surprisingly user friendly); and if you have any questions please ask a member of staff. We’re happy to help.

MJ (with additional photos and text courtesy of HS)

About mj263

Music Collections Supervisor at Cambridge University Library. Wide musical interests. Often to be found stuck in a composer's archive, or enthusing about antiquarian music.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to What did Voyager do for us?

  1. spslibraryinfo says:

    Reblogged this on SPS Library Blog.


  2. SVM says:

    Despite this very informative post, I am still very saddened to see Newton go, and, having perused the feedback panel in the UL locker-room back in July, I know I am not the only one to *despise* iDiscover. It is probably futile to bring them up yet again (I have already responded to an online survey and put my comments on the feedback panel), but here are some of the serious deficiencies in iDiscover as matters stand:

    1. no functionality to search by *shelfmark* — this saves a lot of time if you already know the shelfmarks of the items you want and just need to check whether they are in the UL or out on loan (quite crucial if, in common with most alumni, one does not live in Cambridge, and is making a special journey);

    2. having to click several times to filter to search only the UL (speaking as an alumnus, that is the only Cambridge library I use, to which I make day-trips from over 50 miles away, so non-UL results are unwelcome clutter and cause the page to take longer to load), rather than being able to simply bookmark the URL



    3. iDiscover uses javascript and animation to operate — both are completely superfluous to searching (as Newton demonstrates), and, worst of all, cause the pages to take *far* longer to load. The advanced-search page (note the unwieldy URL — far harder to memorise than the Newton one) at


    took my internet browser over 15 seconds just to load on a reasonably fast connection, before I could even select “University Library” from the animated menu (why this silly flashiness — it adds nothing to the menu), which took circa another 10 seconds. The equivalent functionality (open an advanced search filtered to yield only UL results) took circa 2 seconds on the aforementioned Newton page (with no need to click or select anything). If progress is to be defined as a common function taking more than ten times longer (and requiring additionally javascript and selecting something from a menu), then I despair…

    4. often, one is not looking to get lots of results, but to find records that match very specific criteria, so having more hits is not a good thing, if the extra hits end up being false positives;

    5. since, as this article aptly observes, getting the right search criteria (e.g.: the language of the title) may take many attempts, the slow loading-times in iDiscover become a fairly major problem — this is particularly the case if one knows of a relevant item of literature, but cannot remember the title or author, and thus searches by making lots of educated guesses;

    6. it is also unclear whether, in the event of more than one near match, iDiscover would offer all the near matches (as Newton does), or just the most common one.

    I suspect that the UL is not planning to do anything to address these concerns, so, in view of the fact that it will soon take a *lot* longer to do simple, common tasks, would MusiCB3 please compile, publish, and keep up-to-date a list of freelancers (many libraries already do this, usually with a disclaimer to the effect that they accept no responsibility for the quality of the work carried-out by such persons) who are:

    a) familiar with searching for sheet music, literature on music, and periodicals (whether bound or in the West Room) at the UL;

    b) fluent in using iDiscover; and

    c) willing to do mundane tasks such as compiling lists of shelfmarks and verifying (preferably in person) the availability of volumes for an appropriate fee (iDiscover is so frustrating that I am genuinely willing to pay someone to use it on my behalf!).


  3. mj263 says:

    Further to the comments above, there will be another post on MusiCB3 in a few weeks time dealing with some of the specific points raised. Thank you for raising them.


  4. Pingback: Still discovering iDiscover? | MusiCB3 Blog

  5. stebo says:

    I agree with almost everything SVM writes.
    By the way, I am not a music scholar – I am a historian of early cinema – but the European collections blog directed me to this site.
    The new Cambridge library catalogue iDiscover is frightful and I dread using it. I regularly search many other online catalogues and ALL are better than iDiscover: OCLC (Worldcat), COPAC (albeit a bit slow), CCFR, SUDOC, BnF (all France), SBN (ICCU, Italy), Library of Congress (also a bit slow), NYPL, Hathi, Internet Archive, British Library, Oxford (SOLO), UCL (with reservations), UCLA, USC, Melvyl (California – same system as OCLC).
    How did we get to this point? Of all the possible online catalogue systems in the world Cambridge CUL (the loveliest and most user-friendly library in the world with the smartest staff – IMHO) has chosen the worst system! The only other university library catalogue I have accessed that uses this same slow pop-up ‘Primo’ system is the University of Santa Barbara – but then, I suppose, if you live in that lovely city (apart from the fires) you don’t care too much about library catalogues because you have the beach.
    Even the National Archives catalogue (sort of popup) is better than iDiscover.
    As SVM rightly observes, the comments panel in the locker-room in CUL during the summer was packed with objections to iDiscover.
    Please, please get rid of iDiscover and keep Newton. Newton is so simple and fast (and you can cut and paste so easily). It is, with SBN, at the top of my list of online library catalogues. What can we do to persuade you to keep it and ostracize iDiscover?
    If you decline to send iDiscover to the Chiltern Hundreds, I suppose the only thing that will save us is that, presumably, Cambridge will continue to submit catalogue records to COPAC, which is serviceable as a system, and might get better if there is future collaboration with OCLC (as I have read somewhere might happen). That way we would not need to consign the iDiscover thing to the Chilterns but could instead direct it 50 miles or so northward, and send it to Coventry instead.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.