Week Beginning 18th September 2023

On Monday and Tuesday this week I participated in the UCU strike action.  On my return to work on Wednesday I focussed on writing a Data Management Plan for Jennifer Smith’s ESRC proposal that uses some of the SCOSYA data.  After a few follow-up conversations I completed a version of the plan that Jennifer was happy with.  I informed her that I’d be happy to help out with any further changes or discussions, but other than that my involvement is now complete.

I spent a fair bit of the remainder of the week trying to fix an old resource.  I created the House of Fraser Archive site (https://housefraserarchive.ac.uk/) with Graeme Cannon more than twelve years ago, with Graeme doing the XML parts via an eXist-DB system and me doing the interface and all of the parts that processed and displayed data returned from eXist.  Unfortunately the server the site was running on had to be taken offline and the system moved elsewhere.  A newer version of eXist was required and the old libraries that were used to connect to the XML database would no longer work.  I figured out a way to connect via an alternative method, but this then returned the data in a different structure.  This meant I needed to update every page of the site that processed data to not only update the way the system was queried but also update the way the returned data was handled.  This took quite a lot of time but I managed to get all of the ‘browse’ options plus the display of records, tags and images working.  The only thing I couldn’t get to work was the search, as this seems to use further libraries that are no longer available.  I the issue is structuring the query to work with eXist, but I am not much of an expert with eXist and I’m not really sure how to untangle things.  I’ve asked Luca if he could have a look at it, as he’s use eXist a lot more than I have.  I’ve not heard back from him yet, but hopefully we’ll manage to get the search working, otherwise we may have to remove the search and get people to rely on the browse functions to access the data instead.

For the rest of the week I returned to working on the Books and Borrowing project.  One thing on my ‘to do’ list is to sort out the API.  There are a few endpoints that I haven’t documented yet, plus the existing documentation and structuring of the API could be improved.  I spent some time adding in a license statement and a ‘table of contents’ that lists all endpoints.  I’m currently in the middle of adding in the missing endpoint descriptions.  After that I’ll need to ensure the examples given all work and make sense and then I need to ensure the CSV output works properly for all data types.  I’m fairly certain that some data held in arrays will not output properly as CSV at the moment and this definitely needs sorted.