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New to the forum : looking to create a Library database

Question asked by RuiGuerreiro on Dec 16, 2013
Latest reply on Dec 17, 2013 by philmodjunk


New to the forum : looking to create a Library database


Hello everyone,

I'm really new to both the forum and Filemaker, so I thought I'd present myself to the community and then post a couple questions.

I’m from Portugal, and I’m currently starting to plan how to best organize the content of several dozens of boxes filled with books, magazines, manuscripts, personal objects, stamps, records, etc, etc., that were left by my late grandfather. He was always really active in the local community, and now, with the help of the same community and some local organizations, we’re trying to organize his belongings and later make them available to everyone. So, first we need to get organized. Such a collection of items needs to be properly catalogued, both to know what exactly is there and also to make it easy for people to use the resources later on.

After looking around, I came across a couple of “ready to use” solutions for the Mac, which is what I’m using, like Bookpedia, Delicious Library, Librarian Pro and a few more. These are much less expensive than professional cataloguing software, and even compared to Filemaker, but they are very limited in what you can do and a bit too closed when you need to customize them to something as particular and complex as this collection. So I’m really thinking about purchasing Filemaker. Although it is a big investment for a non-profit, I think it will make a huge difference in the long run, just because I can build a unique platform from the ground up, specifically tailored to our needs.

I already downloaded the demo of the brand new Filemaker Pro 13 and purchased the series on Filemaker 12, that will help me get started, but I haven’t installed the demo yet, because in the tutorial, one of the things they underline is the fact that one should plan the database before starting building it, and to avoid losing precious trial days, I’ll plan first and start to build later on, so that I can really grasp if it will do what we need before spending the big bucks. But from what I already saw, I believe we might purchase it even before the trial period is over ;)

That said, here are a couple questions that I already have just by taking some time to plan the database:

1 - I’m the one who is in charge of creating the database, but I probably won’t be the only one entering data later on, so the interface needs to be as simple as possible. Since Filemaker also integrates with iPad, we probably going to be using an iPad to enter data, instead of the computer. Both devices will be on the same wireless network, where all the items are stored and will be in display later. So the question is, after I create the database in the computer, the data can be entered from an iPad, correct? Or is the iPad a read/search only device and one cannot input data from it?

2 - About the iPad app. When designing the database, and then transposing it to the iPad platform, we could have like a Home page with the Library logo, for example and only a couple buttons to chose what to do, like adding a new item, search for items, etc., and when someone clicks one of the buttons then it would take him to the input data screen with all the fields, correct?

3 - Every item must have a unique ID, which is easy to implement from what I have seen already. This could be just an incremental number, for example, but what if we wanted to have something a bit more descriptive, like include the initials of the Library before the automatic incremental number, plus say the Author of said item’s last name? Here’s an example: “BG0286-SHAKESPEARE”. Is this possible? Is there a way to tell the unique automatically created ID field of each item to not only create an incremented number for each item but to also push the info of the author’s last name once it’s inputed in the Author’s Last Name field?

4 - Related to the unique ID field. I notice that the new version of Filemaker includes barcodes. The barcode is created from which information? Could it be set to create a barcode from the unique ID’s data, for example?

5 - Regarding labels. We will need to print labels for each item. We can choose to print the labels with data from more than one field, right? Could the labels be set to include, for example, the Library’s logo, plus the unique ID plus the barcode?

6 - The container fields. So, when creating the database I want to have a field for the items image, whether it is a book cover, magazine cover, an object’s photo, etc.. Later on, when using the iPad to enter the data, is it possible to touch the Image container to launch the iPad’s camera and capture it from there?

7 - About sharing the data. One of the key parts of this Library project is to share the data with the world. We already have a website dedicated to the Library, and the idea would be to have a specific page on the website where people could search and/or browse the contents of the database. After the database is up and running, will Filemaker allow us to have its content available online? I mean, what we need is basically a search engine inside a page in the website where people would type, say Shakespeare, and they would get back a list of all the records that contain the word Shakespeare inside the database of the Library. Then, from the list of results they would click one of them to see their details, like the Title, Year of Publication, Editor, etc., etc.. Is this possible?

I’m sure that once I start building the database I’ll have more questions, but these are some of the essential features that we need to decide whether or not to buy Filemaker. Please bear with me if my english isn’t perfect and some of the questions are not clear enough. I will be more than happy to share more details about what exactly we’re trying to achieve in each question above.

Also, please feel free to point out any learning resources that you find useful and also, if someone is using Filemaker for a Library database, we would love to hear your thoughts and suggestions.

Sorry for the long post ;) And thank you so much for reading.