LiFE^2 Case Studies – British Library Newspapers

This afternoon we are starting with three case studies. The first (presented by Richard Davies from the BL) is for material that is not ‘born digital’ – in this case Newspapers at the British Library.

The BL wanted to use the “Burney Collection” – 1,100 volumes of the earliest known newspapers, with about 1 million pages, digitised from the microfilm.

They originally wanted to compare the digital collection with the analogue collection. However, because of access restrictions to the printed Burney Collection, they decided it wasn’t a particularly good comparison. So instead they compared a snapshot of their analogue legal deposit newspaper collection with the digital Burney Collection.

The point was not to say which was more expensive or better value, but to see if the LiFE model was workable for both types of collection.

The BL tried to cost each part of the process that they went through, including staff costs. They used linked spreadsheets to allow manipulation of the underlying cost assumptions without having to change all the formulae – so they could change (e.g.) salary costs and this would filter through.

The BL found that the overall LiFE model worked very well for the analogue collection. Even though not all terminology applied (for example the model talks about ‘bitstream’ – which is a digital only idea), the concepts underlying the terminology would apply to both – so perhaps the terminology needs refining to show this.

However, they found that at the element and subelement level, the detail for the digital was different to that required for analogue – which you might reasonably expect.

There were some significant differences:

There were large ‘creation’ costs for the digital collection, but not for the analogue collection (although it occurs to me, that actually there are large costs for the creation of the analogue collection – just not borne by the BL – does the model need to take into account commercial input?)

The overall conclusions were:

  • Comparison (of the analogue to digital) is complex but workable
  • Retrospective costing adds complications
  • Similar costs across a number of LiFE Stages
  • Analogue lifecycles are well established compared to digital

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.