Monthly Archives: October 2008

Monash Manga Library Database Project

The Monash Manga Library is part of the Japanese Studies Centre at Monash University in Clayton. I first started visiting the library in 2004 and became a volunteer staff member soon after that.

It’s run almost entirely by volunteers who have a lot of love for that place. We’ve all become friends and keep in touch long after we’ve graduated.

Image from the Monash Manga Library website

The database that the library runs on was also made by a volunteer…and while I know the best intentions were there, it really isn’t a great database. It is definitely not normalised and is missing some basic code – for example, code that could determine whether a library member can actually borrow any books, or when the books would be due.

Considering that the volunteer who designed it wasn’t an ICT student, they did a pretty good job of building that Access database. But at the moment, it can take up to 10 minutes to enter loans or returns. The database has corrupted over time and there are concerns that the library’s revenues and expenses aren’t being tracked properly.

I offered to build a new database for the library. We decided we would still use Microsoft Access because it was an interface all of the staff were already familiar with and because Monash University already holds software licenses for it. But beyond that, this database is set for a complete redesign.

I’m going to introduce barcodes into the library. Handheld USB scanners are cheap and easy to source. There’s also a wonderful barcoding program by IDAutomation that is free for educational or non-profit organisations. Introducing barcodes has meant that we’ve had to do a massive stocktake in the library. There are over 8000 items! They were all taken off the shelves, barcoded, their details recorded into the new, clean repository and then reshelved. That was a task-and-a-half but I remember when we added coloured ratings and author surnames to the book’s spines a few years ago. Similar situation! I think that the library just needs to fall into complete chaos like that every few years. Being surrounded by piles of books, paper and dust is good for the soul, hehehe!

Anyway, the database has taken a massive leap forward in recent weeks. There has been a little scope creep and my design has changed a little from the original plan. But since there’s only a year or so left before I have to say goodbye to the library and get stuck into a full-time career, I’m happy to change this database until it’s perfect and I can leave the manga library ticking over nicely to the next generation of volunteers.

Hopefully once I’ve finished the database and fully implemented it, I can post some screenshots and documentation here to show how the new system works. Monash University have shared some exciting news: the future database could be used as a reserch tool, which means that the Manga Library could receive more funding! That would be fantastic, since it’s such a great little library.