I took the day off from work today mostly just for the heck of it. Today is the first day of my fall quarter in library school, class number 9 of the 15 classes I need to graduate. I’m making progress! And since I have the same professor this quarter as I did last quarter and I know he assigns a lot of work, I thought today I could get a jumpstart on it. So far it is working out pretty well.

This quarter’s class is sort of part two of last quarter. Last quarter was “digital libraries” and focused on theory and issues. This quarter is “digital library technologies” and is more hands-on. I was a bit nervous about this class because it is heavy on the use of XML, a markup language I have no experience with. I had done a little reading about it but none of it really explained it so I understood what XML is and how and why would I want to use it.

Then last night I picked up a book I have been half-heartedly and distractedly gnawing my way through, Digital Libraries and the Challenges of Digital Humanities, and suddenly the book could not have been more relevant. The section I was on talked about XML, what it was, what it does, why it is used and how it is used. It also talked about why anyone in the humanities would want to mark up a document with it and the things that could be done with documents once they were marked up. And suddenly I was super excited and every other sentence I was thinking, wow! this is really cool! And as my understanding grew and my excitement followed along, my nervousness about leaning XML faded as though it were a dream.

Turns out XML is going to be super easy. Whereas HTML, the markup language used to write webpages tells a browser how to display information, XML is a language that can be used to describe information. It does not format documents or tell a browser how a document should look, it just describes what is in the document. The easy part about XML is that it is merely a syntax and the words that I put into that syntax are pretty much of my own devising. The hard part is if you are creating a set of digital documents you want to analyze, the language you create to use in the syntax of XML has to consistent across the documents for your later analysis to work. For instance, if you tagged the author of one book as and the author of another book as and the author of a third book as you have messed yourself up with inconsistency.

Sorry to go on and on, I’m just so relieved about this.

So I have spent my day half loafing and half working on school, reading the first chapter of the XML book and digging in to the week’s readings and finally being excited about the class that I was dreading. Remind me how excited I was today in 9 weeks when I am working on my final project, feeling tired and overwhelmed. Now I’m off to create my first XML document!