William Kilbride

William Kilbride

Last updated on 11 January 2019

Let me offer a belated but sincere ‘Happy New Year’.  The Christmas decorations are down but despite our titanic efforts (and burgeoning waistlines) the cupboard is still groaning with leftover cake. As I write, a whole slab of stollen is luring me away from my laptop and back to the kitchen.  But I must resist, at least till this week’s story is told. 

It’s not so much the story of a week as a whole year: the DPC’s most successful year (so far), 2017-18. That was the pleasing assertion I was able to make at our Annual General Meeting in December, so I thought it would be worth sharing more generally.  On a more formal level, some of you will know that a few years ago the DPC set aside its old managerial ‘Key Performance Indicators’ in favour of a ‘Continuous Quality Improvement’ framework.  That means it’s not sufficient for the DPC to meet targets, but that we should be striving constantly to improve on delivery.  That doesn’t absolve us from the necessary work or reporting our facts and figures: so perhaps unusually this blog will contain some real data. 

Each year the DPC promises to run 6 member facing events and we usually over-achieve.  In 2017-18 we delivered 21 ‘face to face’ events and 12 online ‘webinars’.  We also made substantial progress with webcasting to the extent that we were able to stream or record every briefing day we ran, moving us from experimentation to practical and routine delivery of hybrid events.  The events programme was distinguished by two 'firsts': the first ‘International Digital Preservation Day’ (of which more in a moment); and the first time that we ran two different events for two different audiences simultaneously (The 'What I Wish I knew Before I Started student conference and the 'Email Preservation How Hard Can It Be? 2 briefing day which were both on 24th January) .  The programme also included a suite of activities around the new ‘Digital Preservation Futures’ community forum where DPC Supporters shared their technical roadmaps while members discussed their emerging requirements. 

The Publications programme in 2017-18 had two major releases: our new Strategic Plan, and the first iteration of the BitList of Digitally Endangered Species.  The former has invited significant re-organization of the DPC’s structures and the latter is already in second edition.  That’s over and above the continuing work to refresh the Technology Watch Report series – now managed in house – and the incredibly popular and regular content on the blog.  We were also pleased to publish the results of a number of more technical research projects, such as a review of Digital Preservation for Non-Print Legal Deposit, and the outcomes of the Email Preservation Task Force which DPC had co-sponsored with the Andrew W Mellon Foundation. 

It’s rather dull to report website statistics as proof that all this matters to someone.  For the sake of brevity, the Digital Preservation Handbook remains easily the most popular area of the website, with Events, the Knowledge Base, the BitList and ‘About Us’ featuring in the top five. We advertised 106 jobs last year – almost double from the previous year – and with some 159,687 hits on those pages alone suggesting that looking for a new job is not just something for the new year. But there's another reason for not reporting the details of web browsing: to be perfectly honest, the spike in activity on International Digital Preservation Day was so huge that it effectively broke the analytics.

The Leadership Programme, through which we can sponsor members to attend conferences and training, remains popular, with 16 grants awarded to a sum of around 8000GBP.  It’s a wonderful programme which was expanded this year to support travel as well as registration for conference attendance.  That allowed us to send three members to iPres in Kyoto, Japan for example as well as the more familiar scholarships to the Digital Preservation Training Programme. It’s surprising to report that the Leadership Programme ended the year still in credit, so the unspent surplus has been carried over and the relevant staff and sub-committee has been charged with finding more creative ways to support training.

All of that is impressive but perhaps not unexpected.  The really big news for DPC recently has been growth in membership.  The DPC attracted 17 new members last year – the largest single increase in membership even than when we were founded.  Not only was this the biggest increase, but it materially expanded the DPC’s range and geography.  We had our first member in the Middle East (Qatar National Library), our first member in California (Internet Archive), our first multi-national drinks firm (Bacardi Martini) as well as another multi-national bank (RBS).  This significant growth is welcome, but perhaps as importantly the existing membership has remained stable, with no members suspending. All this points to the DPC as a global and diverse community, growing and changing. 

Such growth is welcome but can be disruptive too.  It becomes all the more important to make sure that the DPC’s structures and expectations are refreshed and renewed.  DPC’s strong foundational documents have served us well but were patently designed for a smaller organization in simpler times.  2018 saw a comprehensive revision of our founding documents: new Articles of Association were implemented on 1st January 2018 along with the new Strategic Plan.  Operational matters are now the responsibility of a small Executive Board, and strategic matters are the responsibility of a large Representative Council of all full members, the former drawn from the latter.  Our member sub-committees were revised and expanded and remained vigorously engaged through the year.  Growth and diversity also required a more explicit statement of values and expectations, so the DPC articulated an Inclusion and Diversity policy, based on the long-standing corporate values articulated in the strategic plan.

The DPC’s finances are reported as usual through accounts filed at Companies House.  The main news is that the DPC lives within its means. We had initially forecast a neat 'break even' till the accountants added a small surplus based on rather arcane calculations of holiday pay.  That's welcome news even if we recognise it as an artefact of the process rather than true income.  In short, DPC’s revenue, based almost entirely on membership, is stable and growing; our expenditure remains tightly and transparently tied to member needs. We continue to steer away from the famine and feast of block-buster projects, preferring measured growth through sustainable membership. In the final analysis, for an organization like the DPC there is no sustainability without partnership.

I can still see that stollen in the kitchen, and as the morning has progressed it has become gradually more appealing, so I should do the decent thing and eat it out of the way before it goes off.  But not before I draw some conclusions.   The DPC has never been busier, never more impactful and never more in demand.  2017-18 was easily our busiest year but it lays the foundations for more: a sustainable organization configured for growth and with a clear plan for the future.  A good place to leave the old year; and a great place to start the new one.

That's just as well because the commitment to continuous quality improvement means we should do better next year.  Here are our laurels: watch as we try not to rest upon them.


#1 Tim Gollins 2019-01-11 14:15

What an amazing year, and huge thansk to you and the team for such brilliant work.
The DPC never fails to both set high expectaions and then exceed them !

All the very best to everyone for 2019


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