Welcome. I'm so glad you can join us. I don't have a background in databases, so I can't answer your questions. If you don't already have OpenOffice suite loaded on your computer, that's a first step. The download is available on the home page: OpenOffice.org . Once you have it, you can see how Base works as compared to Access.
Just looking through the CCNC database module, I think the content is quite well developed. It does appear that it needs to be updated to openoffice 3.0 (I found this link to an OO 3.0? Base tutorial: http://sheepdogguides.com/fdb/fdb1main.htm ) and I have copied you on an email to Peter (who is the original author for the Base tutorial) to see if he is interested in continuing the work.
I'm hoping that between us all we can lay out a set of tasks that need to be done.
Look forward to working with you, Alison