Student Snippets A Window Into The Daily Life & Thoughts of SLIS Students

Creating a Character Database

This finals period was challenging but fun, and encapsulated what I’ve enjoyed about my courses at SLIS. I had a lot of latitude in choosing topics for my final projects in each course, but enough structure that I felt challenged by the assignments. For Database Management (LIS 458) with Professor Danielle Pollock, I designed and built a database about the characters in George Eliot’s Middlemarch, my favorite Victorian novel. Developing this database was one of the most intellectually challenging projects I’ve done at SLIS. Professor Pollock set us up to succeed by requiring us to turn in different elements of our database design throughout the semester, so I was able to revise my design and structure based on her feedback.

I wanted to capture detailed information about every character in the novel, including clues to their socioeconomic background. Sorting out the technical details of how to display that information pushed me to grapple with the topics we covered during the semester. I ended up scaling back my project as the semester went on. Middlemarch is about 800 pages long and there are more than 100 named characters. When I submitted my database at the end of the semester, I had records for about fifty characters. There were also records about their relationships, houses, and families in other tables. 
The development process involved learning SQL (Structured Query Language) in order to create and search the database. I also wrote PHP code in order to set up the web interface. Finally, I tied them all together with an HTML form that makes the database searchable. I’m really proud of my Middlemarch database, and it’s the only final project I’ve ever done that I’ve considered going back and doing more work on. You can check out my work and search the database at this link.