Academic journal article Library Technology Reports

Building Digital Library Applications with Database Management Systems (Dbms)

Academic journal article Library Technology Reports

Building Digital Library Applications with Database Management Systems (Dbms)

Article excerpt

The alternative to using a search engine to build a digital library application is to use a Database Management System (DBMS). Search engines may be relatively familiar to librarians, but DBMS technologies are not as well known. For this reason, this section of the report includes a primer on DBMS concepts and vocabulary and a discussion of techniques for applying DBMS to the storage of library records and the construction of digital library applications. This should help to demonstrate how DBMS features are relevant to the development of the standard capabilities expected from digital library applications. The primer is followed by specifications for a DBMS RFP.

There are a several types of DBMS products available to libraries. As noted earlier in this report, Relational Database Management Systems (RDBMS), though widely marketed, are not the most desirable type of DBMS for digital library application building. Instead, it is better to use one of the two newer types of DBMS, Object Relational Database Management Systems (ORDBMS) or Object Oriented Database Management Systems (OODBMS). These newer tools are the subjects of this discussion of the acquisition of DBMS and the use of DBMS technology for library projects.

Object Relational and Object Oriented DBMS share a common data model, a way of conceiving of and structuring the contents of a database. According to this model, a database is a collection of objects, and each object has a number of attributes and methods. An object is in many ways like a traditional library record. Its attributes are analogous to the fields in a record. And methods are functional capabilities--the ability to search for, change, and output the information in the database.

This object data model aligns nicely with the fundamental structure of digital library applications described at the beginning of this report:

                        DIGITAL LIBRARY APPLICATION

Attributes              Information Objects are
                        the attributes of an Object
                        that contain content.

                        Cataloging Records are
                        the attributes of an
                        Object that describe the
                        Object's content.

 Methods                Functional Logic.
                        Objects provide a way
                        to implement part of the
                        functional logic of a
                        digital library application.

Although the DBMS primer and RFP included in this section of the report are written to support procurement of either an Object Relational DBMS or an Object Oriented DBMS, they were written more in terms of Object Relational functionality. This preference is given to ORDBMS because Relational DBMS technology is well known and popular, and people with RDBMS experience will be more comfortable with an ORDBMS that simply extends familiar RDBMS capabilities. In addition, most Object Relational DBMS are the products of major software firms with large numbers of existing customers. Their likely product development trajectory is fairly well understood.

By contrast, Object Oriented DBMS (OODBMS) are less well established in the marketplace and there is much greater variety in their features. Some are very basic programming tools; they provide a means for storing objects but everything else must be implemented by a programmer. Others are extremely sophisticated and flexible tools. Because of this variability, it is difficult to compare the functional capabilities of competing OODBMS products. It is easier to state requirements in terms of Object Relational DBMS capabilities and then ask Object Oriented DBMS vendors to explain how their software can be used to accomplish the same thing.


Since DBMS technology is unfamiliar to most librarians, the author has prepared a primer to introduce basic DBMS capabilities and give an idea of how they can be used to construct a digital library application. …

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