Magazine article Information Today

SQL for Librarians

Magazine article Information Today

SQL for Librarians

Article excerpt

SQL for Librarians Creating Database-Backed Library Web Pages Using Open Source Tools by Stephen R. Westman Chicago: ALA, 2006 ISBN-13: 9780838909102 268 pages $48 softcover

You may have seen some very impressive library Web pages lately; I know I have. Many are dynamically created from Web-based databases, which can range from staff directories to lists of databases by subject. But the average information professional may find it difficult to make them work properly. We aren't necessarily ready to leap right into programming, and some of us may not have specialized staff available to work on such projects.

Never fear, Stephen Westman is here to make it easier. His new book not only explains the code behind the Web pages, but he even bases the process on open source products available to us all.

Westman, who is now digital information services librarian at the University of North Carolina-Charlotte, has held similar positions at several other academic libraries. For the past several years, he has used relational databases to create Web pages. He knows from experience that librarians are not always familiar or comfortable with programming, so he thoughtfully eases librarians into the process.

Understanding the Process

This book is different than others that are currently available. First, Westman uses concepts and language that are familiar to librarians. second, he covers the entire process of creating databasebacked Web resources rather than focusing on particular elements such as coding or design. He begins by illustrating how database-backed Web pages work: They are actually Web-based reports of information from a database. As information professionals, we are familiar with databases, so this isn't difficult to understand. The report process involves sending a query to the database, then the search results are sent to a report writer, who turns them into a Web page. The most difficult part of the process is creating programs to search and output data from the database.

The book begins with several chapters about creating, using, and managing a relational database. Westman focuses on using MySQL (the open source database software), although he discusses using PostgreSQL as an alternative. For those with database experience (even a library catalog database), this won't be totally foreign. Many tables and drawings in the book illustrate the MySQL database structure.

Westman also recommends phpMyAdmin as a graphical user interface (GUI) for using MySQL. Using a GUI lets you easily do many tasks in a familiar Windows-like format rather than using the SQL command-line interface. …

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