LiFE^2 – Implementation of the LiFE work

This session is describing some practical implementations of the LiFE costing model (we have more detailed case studies coming this afternoon).

The first is the from Denmark (Anders Bo Nielsen and Ulla Bogvad Kejser):

The aim was to estimate and compare lifecycle costs of preservation of digital material held by Danish culturual heritage institutions, covering the National Archives, the Royal Library and the State and University Library.

The Danish project chose LiFE model as it was already developed, and seem to have reasonable traction in the sector, and had been tested on real data sets – albeit small data sets. However, they have some improvements they would like to see to the model, including:

  • Use of OAIS terminology to ease understanding etc.
  • Breakdown in more generic function entities to avoid bias towards library material (since they are interested in other cultural heritage areas like Museums etc.)
  • Needs to cover all costs – e.g. general admin, facilities, cost of systems to manage lifecycle etc.

They also removed the ‘metadata’ stage, and spread the metadata elements across the other stages (this was referred to in Paul Wheatley’s talk, in terms of disagreement over the best way to handle the metadata aspects of the model) – this latter approach makes more sense to me, rather than regarding ‘metadata’ as a specific activity, making it a function of other parts of the model. In fact, the more I think about it, the more it strikes me that regarding ‘metadata’ as an activity in itself is a serious problem, and suggestive of a ‘cataloguing’ centric view of the world – we should always see the use of metadata as a means to an end, not and end in itself.

Now Ulla Kejser now talking about a specific instance, preserving pictures from celluloid in digital format. They used the LiFE model to estimate the costs of digital preservation vs film preservation, and found that the ongoing costs for film preservation are much lower than digital preservation, however over 5 years the digital preservation turns out to be cheaper, so they have decided to use TIFF digital copies as their ‘safety’ copy. She also noted that they were dealing with very high resolution images, which increased the cost of digital preservation.

Finally in this session (and the last before lunch) is Paul Ayris (Director of Library Services, UCL), is speaking about the JISC-LC Blue Ribbon Task Force on the economic sustainability of digital preservation (of which both he and Paul Courant are members).

Paul is going to cover:

  • Why is digital preservation important
  • Implications – focusing on UK Exemplars
  • The work of the Blue Ribbon Task Force

UCL has a 5 year library strategy going up to 2010, with 10 over-arching goals, with e-strategy a priority in many of them (Teaching and Learning, Research, Student Experience, Partnership working)

UCL has a model of the user experience – focus on ‘value’ and user demand rather than on the cost of providing the service. They have a defined a ‘generic’ user called ‘Charlie’ (the phrase ‘charlie says’ spring irresistibly to mind).

They have a number of scenarios for Charlie (although I feel that they have missed the point of the idea of having a ‘user’ scenario here, as essentially they say Charlie might be a student, or a researcher or something else etc. – surely there should be different exemplars for each type?)

Anyway, this is a hook on which to hang an analysis of what users want from the library, and what other resources they use. UCL is aiming to bring together a number of different things through the ‘UCL Portal’ (the dreaded words ‘one-stop shop’ have been uttered – feel like I’ve stepped back in time by 5 years – does anyone believe in the one-stop shop anymore?). Oddly Paul goes on to describe how the library is only one content provider in a networked environment – this seems a recognition that the one-stop shop is not possible?

Interestingly UCL assume that STM researchers do not come to the physical library (unless they absolutely have to) – from an Imperial point of view, this is ALL (well almost) our researchers!

Anyway, in this new information landscape, long-term digital preservation of assets is essential. Paul says it is irresponsible to steer users towards these digital resources and and to not think about their longterm viability.

Paul now going to talk about two aspects of digital preservation close to my interest – ‘Big Science’ and ‘Small Science’.

Firstly ‘Big Science’. Looking at the UK Research Data Service (UKRDS) project – RLUG and RUGIT have issues an invitation to tender, with £200k from HEFCE for a feasibility study into the development of a shared digital research data service for UK HE.

There are other options to the UKRDS:

National services which work for the academic community – e.g.

  • E-Depot in The Hague is a national Dutch exemplar.
  • Commercial services such as Portico
  • Local digital curation services – based at the institution (and institutional repositories are perhaps examples of this – but so far have concentrated on published output rather than primary datasets)

What is the ‘Blue Ribbon Task Force’?

Is has been setup by the NSF in the US, with funding from the Mellon Foundation, and partners include the Library of Congress and JISC.

The key questions being addressed are:

  • How will we ensure the long-term preservation and access to our digital information?
  • How will we successfully migrate data from one preservation format to another?
  • Should we preserve everything, or be selective?
  • If we are selective, what criteria do we use?

Also considering economic sustainability:

What is the cost to preserve valuable data and who will pay?

Economically sustainable digital preservation will require:

  • new models for channeling resources to preservation activities
  • efficient organization that will make these efforts affordable
  • recognition by key decision makers of the need to preserve with appropriate incentives to spur action

The Blue Ribbon Task Force is not just about HE – looking at wider environment.

The task force says that we need a recognition of the benefits of preservation – and this needs to happen at the level of key decision makers. I wonder if we have ever taken this approach to preservation before? It comes back to something that Paul Courant said – if we cost in preservation before doing anything, the startup costs will be too high. This seems to be the crux of the issue for me – which approach we take here is key.

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