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LIFE: More about life cycles


The concept of life cycle assessment and and more specifically life cycle costing is found in many arenas of business and research. To quote a UK government publication from 1977:

Management decisions are taken every day. Most of these decisions affect the cost of owning and using physical assets. Frequently the implications of the decisions on the costs of asset ownership are not fully realised. The specification and design of physical assets tend to concentrate on physical factors, and do not always define the cost implications of the whole life of the asset. In many instances the purchase of equipment is decided solely on the criteria of initial acquisition costs

taken from the introduction of Life Cycle Costing in the Management of Assets: a Practical Guide, published by the UK Department of Industry's Committee for Terotechnology in 1977.

Although the quotation above is speaking about the management of physical assets by government departments, the concept is exactly relevant to the management of library materials. This concept is Life Cycle Collection Management.

The Library background

The concept of life cycle costing in libraries was introduced by Andy Stephens in his article for the British Journal of Academic Librarianship in 1988 (Stephens, A The application of life cycle costing in libraries. British Journal of Academic Librarianship, 1988, 3(2) pp. 82-88) and for the IFLA journal in 1994 (Stephens, A The application of life cycle costing in libraries: a case study based on acquisition and retention of library materials in the British Library. IFLA journal, 1994, 20(2) pp. 130-140).

Helen Shenton used this concept to apply life cycle costing to collections at the British Library. The results are available in the paper she wrote for the LIBER Quarterly (Shenton, H Life Cycle Collection Management LIBER Quarterly , 2003, 13(3/4) pp. 254-272).

The digital perspective

A strategic approach to managing the life cycle of digital collections is broadly advocated.

Recommendations in influential publications include: "Preservation Management of Digital Materials" by Maggie Jones and Neil Beagrie, publications from the CEDARS project, "Comparison of Methods and Costs of Digital Preservation" by Tony Hendley and "A Strategic Policy for Creating and Preserving Digital Collections" by Neil Beagrie and Daniel Greenstein.

The work on Digital life cycles is international in its breadth, with further studies from LIFE project board members Dr Erik Oltmans and Dr Eileen Gifford Fenton.

LIFE itself

LIFE will pull together these strands in applying the life cycle models to practical digital collections.

  • Link: UCL Library Services
  • Link: British Library
  • Link: Humanities Advanced Technology and Information Institute
  • Link: JISC
  • Link: RIN
  • Link: LIBER

for enquiries contact
LIFE (Life Cycle Information for E-Literature) is a funded by the Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC) and Research Information Network (RIN) and is a collaboration between University College London (UCL) and the British Library