[XML4LIB] RE: Databases or XML

Ron Gilmour gilmr at csc.albany.edu
Fri Feb 8 09:40:47 EST 2002

On Thu, 7 Feb 2002, Larry Schankman wrote:
> Judging from this list, it seems like most librarians who are into XML
> programming are tech services folks who are primarily concerned with MARC
> and cataloging issues. What I'd really like to hear more about are all of
> the other applications librarians are developing for their libraries. Has
> anyone developed a list of practical uses for XML for libraries?


One area in which I think XML has great potential for libraries is as a
document management tool.  For instance, at the library where I work, we
have a number of handouts, pathfinders, etc. which are available at the
reference desk, but most of this information is duplicated on the web
site.  There is no mechanism to ensure that updating is synchronized
between the two formats (the paper copies, of course, being the ones that
fall behind).  If the material were created in XML to begin with, XSL
stylesheets could be used to produce HTML documents for the library web
site and XSLFO documents (which could then be turned into PDFs) for the
paper handouts.  As new formats emerge (e.g., WAP for web-capable phones),
new stylesheets could be written to create versions in that format, with
no large-scale "conversion" projects required.

Library handouts are not the sort of things that tend to get us techy
types real excited, but I think one of the areas in which XML really
shines is as a "hub format" for information which needs to be available in
a variety of other formats.

And, of course, XML is usable for data-backed websites.  (Shameless plug:
I just published an article on some ways to do this in Library HiTech
19(4), 2001: 408-414.)

Ron Gilmour
University at Albany

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