Tag Archives: MySQL

Unit 11: Course Retrospective

This (SIRLS 672) was my first course in the DigIn certificate program, so I did not quite know what to expect of myself or of the program, especially because I do not have professional experience in a library or with collections, except as a frequent user. Although I have a technical background, I had not worked as a programmer or database administrator in years. I discovered that although the course was more technical than I had anticipated, it was still within my capabilities. The examples of digital collections and the library-specific assignments were enlightening as to the scope of the kinds of projects involved and the kinds of skills needed to manage digital collections in a library or archival environment. 

I have learned new technical concepts and skills in this course that will form the basis of a new and expanded conceptualization of digital collections. For example, I knew little about the inner workings of the internet before taking this class; now I understand the various data protocols and standards used, and the procedures used to get data from one node to another. I also did not know anything about the component parts underlying a digital collection (except a little about databases): now I understand, using the LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP) stack as an example, the basic relations between the operating system, the web server, the database management system, and the scripting language underlying a digital collection. I already knew some HTML but I learned a little more, and I learned about XML as a way of describing and structuring data, which was completely new to me. I had professional experience with the concepts underlying relational databases and database design, but it was a good review; and I was introduced to the specifics of MySQL and the scripting language PHP.

In addition to the technical aspects of the course, I learned about the controversies and issues surrounding digital information, such as the argument for open-source software, and the advantages/disadvantages of various system interfaces, such as the CLI  (command line) versus a GUI (graphical user interface). I especially appreciated the opportunity to try tasks using a variety of methods and interfaces so that I could come to my own conclusions about my preferences.  I also learned skills and methods related to project management, the importance of a technology plan, and a little about how technology projects are funded, especially through the e-rate program.  Through the examples and the discussions, I learned about how all of these issues affect libraries, and the issues surrounding the creation and maintenance of digital collections in a library or archival setting. I have also learned about some of the initiatives in the digital humanities.

I especially have a new appreciation for the technical aspects underlying digital collections, and the prodigious amount of work that goes into designing, creating, and maintaining such collections. This knowledge gives a counterweight to the arguments in favor of free access for digital collections: while I agree that access should be as free as possible, I realize that digital collections do not come into being without a large price tag in terms of people-hours and expertise. I think that librarians will have a increasingly large role to play in creating and maintaining these collections, especially in this era of financial constraints.

As I write this I am impressed with how much I have learned, yet I feel a little trepidation because I’m afraid I may have learned just enough to be dangerous.  I realize how far I am from being really proficient in any of these areas; but since the course description states that “this is not a course in network administration, web development or programming!” I feel a little better. I feel that I have achieved the stated goal, which is to learn “about server technology supporting digital collections in libraries, archives, cultural heritage organizations and other institutions.”  I think I have indeed “gain[ed] confidence in [my] ability to learn new technologies as they are developed” and I have come to “understand basic information management architecture.”  I hope and expect that this course will prove to be a firm foundation to build upon as I pursue my future in the digital humanities.

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Filed under Digital Humanities, LAMP architecture, Library science, Project Management, SIRLS 672, Ubuntu Linux

Unit 9: Relational Database Design and MySQL

In  your  blog  this  week  talk  briefly  about  what  concepts  in  this  unit  you  found  most  difficult.  Are  there  still  things   that  are  unclear?  How  might  you  go  about  furthering  your  understanding  of  these  topics?

The topic that was most complex was the process of normalizing relational databases. Fortunately, it was mostly review for me, since I worked for a few years designing and managing databases for research projects and small businesses. Since I was a math minor in college, the math was much more accessible to me then; I have forgotten much of the math I once knew, so the equations are much harder now. Fortunately you don’t need to understand the math to understand the concepts. This has been a good refresher, and of course the theory has progressed since then.

MySQL was pretty straight-forward; since I have used database queries and programmed them before, (although in older PC-based DBMSs like dBaseIV and rBase) the concepts are quite similar. I also had no problems setting up some sample tables on my virtual machine and running through the tutorials.

I plan to continue studying this topic (since I see myself probably creating and working with databases in the future) by trying out different database designs on my system and continuing to read about and do tutorials about MySQL. I would eventually like to end up making the ultimate database of George Eliot resources available on a webpage called Everything Eliot (or something like that). She is one of the few remaining major Victorian figures lacking a major web portal.

A George Eliot knowledge base would be very interesting. I wonder about making it wiki-based, though; I did a little exploratory research about open source knowledge base management systems and there seem to be a few available that are based upon wikis rather than tables. I have an interest in expert systems and knowledge base design  from long ago, especially developing heuristic models of knowledge rather than statistical.

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Filed under LAMP architecture, SIRLS 672