Creating Database‐backed Library Web Pages: Using Open Source Tools

Lan Anh Tran (Victoria University of Wellington, Wellington, New Zealand)

Online Information Review

ISSN: 1468-4527

Article publication date: 20 June 2008




Anh Tran, L. (2008), "Creating Database‐backed Library Web Pages: Using Open Source Tools", Online Information Review, Vol. 32 No. 3, pp. 454-455.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

In today's networked environment libraries face high demand and expectations regarding the use of their collections and services through web browsers. Accordingly, libraries must develop their web sites and manage hundreds or thousands of static web pages for these sites. In order to have data and information stored and made available on the web, libraries must implement relational databases and then integrate them with web services. This book provides technical guidance to libraries in developing relational databases through the use of open source tools. The content is organised in three parts that provide step‐by‐step technical guidelines for creating database‐driven web sites.

Part 1 (Chapters 1‐3) introduces basic concepts, processes and approaches in creating database‐backed web applications. This part shows how the use of databases can support site maintenance and how data publishing becoming easier. In particular, Chapter 2 examines the relational database management systems (RDBMS) from a simple approach of data storage and retrieval to more complex tools, such as Structure Query Language (SQL), setting relations and normalisation of the data model; and it also examines elements of database structures and modelling in association with web applications. Related to this, Chapter 3 analyses the basic techniques involved in setting up a database within RDBMS, using the MySQL management tool. This chapter describes the creation and definition of a database and its constituent tables, inputs data into the database, implements database security and discusses issues related to database management. These initial chapters are essential reading, as they provide detailed background needed to understand the remainder of this book.

Part 2 continues with Chapters 4 and 5, which examine the process of creating programs for searching and outputting data from the database. Specifically, Chapter 4 investigates a process to set up a database and populate it with data that includes two approaches:

  1. 1.

    using proprietary tools, such FilemakerPro, Procite, Crystal Reports, etc. that provide built‐in‐tools to query databases and output the results; and

  2. 2.

    CGI programming, a stand‐alone program written in a traditional programming language.

Next, Chapter 5 describes a variety of reports that allow one to use output data from a database; examines the methods for creating web pages based on parameters hard‐coded in the page; and creates searching applications.

Finally, Part 3 contains Chapters 6‐10. This part focuses on the creation of a complete, database‐backed web application. Drawing on the content of Parts 1 and 2, Chapter 6 develops several forms for gathering specifications and designing databases for an actual project. Based on this work, Chapter 7 discusses how such specifications can be used in creating an application – it should include specific steps that are presented in Chapter 9, such as adding, editing, deleting and updating records and data; and creating a front‐end to enable end‐user searching. The next step is to secure data and information, and to maintain databases and applications that were addressed in Chapter 8, part of Chapters 9 and 10. Additionally, in order to ensure an efficient process, Chapter 10 explores the development procedures in creating database‐backed web applications, such as implementing programming standards, establishing a development process, establishing quality assurance procedures and using good debugging techniques.

This book is an useful source that supports librarians and information professionals who wish to have guidelines and practical help in developing database‐backed web pages. It also includes useful appendixes that provide a shrimp recipe in both traditional and programmed format, programming standards as practical examples, and a glossary of terms.

The author is Digital Information Services Librarian at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. In the past decade, he has been involved in developing databases and using library technology, and in the integration of relational databases and web applications in particular. His expertise shows clearly in this excellent, essential guide for anyone involved in creating database‐backed library web pages.

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