William Kilbride

William Kilbride

Last updated on 11 September 2023

William Kilbride is the Executive Director of the Digital Preservation Coalition, and was General Chair of iPres 2022.

My tiny desk is full to overflowing. My keyboard is jammed between assorted packages and boxes waiting for iPres which opens next week in Illinois. DPC is helping to sponsor iPres this year again (more in a moment) so the generous offer of a table in the exhibition hall has precipitated a search for merchandise – tablecloths, stickers, pens, leaflets, brochures - all bound for Urbana Champaign. I’ve tracked down the last two remaining DPC scarves, and the very last DPC tie.  I am sure they will all make a wonderfully, professional splash so please do drop by and admire the artistic effect if you are in town, because it’s a chaotic muddle and crush just now.

Courier is only one of my duties for iPres this year. I’ve counted four official purposes, and two unofficial ones.

Firstly, I am participating on two panels this year so I will be present for at least two sessions. Honestly that means I will attend at least one more session than I managed last year which was probably (and happily) the busiest I have ever been in my life.

On Wednesday 20th there’s a panel on sustainability, originally proposed by Jon Tilbury at Preservica but who cannot make it in person so has asked me to chair. It’s a diverse panel of vendors and specialists and my role is to set the questions and keep discussion focussed. I am grateful to Jon for setting it up and giving me this opportunity. There’s something about the work of the DPC that tends towards having no official view while cheerfully questioning everyone else’s. But, like many topics, there’s a lot more we could be saying and doing about sustainability. So, if I don’t come away with some actions for the DPC I’ll be surprised and even a bit disappointed.

My second panel is convened by Paul Stokes of Jisc who is also the DPC’s Director for Advocacy and Community Engagement. Paul has challenged us to consider a Tipping Point: when does a lot of data become too much data? This is a different, perhaps more direct way to ask about sustainability too. A significant proportion of data growth in the last few years has been associated with the Internet of Things, which is often promoted as a means to derive greater efficiencies and increase value-add to supply chains. The question arises to me: greater efficiencies for whom? Value-added where? Digital preservation seems to have the fuzzy end of that lollipop.

I’ve got two other roles at the conference, as well as occasional bits of chairing and making a nuisance of myself. As general chair of iPres last year I am now officially a member of the newly reformed iPres Steering Committee which will meet on the fringes of the conference. It’s a back-office function but it’s an important one and, having learned more than I could have ever realised about conference organization, it’s a pleasure to find an outlet for the reservoir of otherwise useless knowledge that sloshes about in my head, hopefully to the advantage of future hosts.

More interesting, and perhaps my favourite single role at iPres: DPC is once again sponsoring the ‘Best contribution by a First Time Attendee’ prize which encourages and celebrates new entrants into the digital preservation community. Everything is in scope for this prize – lightning talks, posters, papers, questions, tweets, even contributions to the conference organization. The judging will be orderly but it cannot be completed till the last possible moment. That means I’ve got an ongoing role throughout the conference, supporting and encouraging and looking out for newcomers.  

So far so obvious. I can’t not also promote two other initiatives, perhaps more informally, while I am in Illinois.

Firstly, if you hadn’t noticed, DPC is recruiting for a new post, a Preservation Registry Analyst to help development and engagement with the many different registry services which underpin a lot of our digital preservation infrastructure. This new role, a joint project funded by colleagues at Yale University, has a conference connection. Delegates at the “Registering our Preservation Intentions” workshop in Glasgow observed that, although registries play a critical role in our digital preservation work, with a few laudable exceptions they are mostly supported only with volunteer effort. With limited resource available, existing registry work is failing to support every day digital preservation activity. So DPC and Yale are looking to address this gap, with a full-time appointment over two years (and let’s face it the work will only continue way beyond that). If you are interested in finding out more then I’d be delighted to set aside some time to chat.

Also, and even more exciting, some of you will know we have recently called for Expressions of Interest to set up a permanent office for the DPC in the Americas. We have long been of the view that digital preservation is a global challenge most effectively met by a community scaled to match. Scaling our programs to meet this global challenge has been a repeated theme in our planning, and a continuous task that has progressed cautiously but constantly since our foundation. In 2020 we established an office in Australia so that our growing membership in Australasia and Asia Pacific could benefit from a dedicated presence and program in a proximate time zone. We’ve now initiated a process to establish a permanent office in the Americas, to support our members in the Americas better and be more accountable to them. It will expand our capacity to understand and respond to the different contexts of digital preservation and means we will better amplify and connect emerging good practice and research. And that will benefit all of us. If you’d like to find out more about this or become part of the DPC’s growing and diverse membership, I’d love to hear from you.

 In more than just the physical sense, my tiny desk is full to overflowing.

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