Open access & The South Australian
Red Cross Information Bureau
A case study in Digital Literacy and
Social Responsibility
So what role does the State
Library have in creating
open access for public
research, education and
community information?...
Prepared by:
Katie Hannan, Coordinator, Online Projects
hannan.katie@slsa.sa.gov.au
Phone: 08 8207 7287
For More Informati...
Open access and the South Australian Red Cross Information Bureau: A case study in Digital Literacy and Social Responsibility
Open access and the South Australian Red Cross Information Bureau: A case study in Digital Literacy and Social Responsibility
Open access and the South Australian Red Cross Information Bureau: A case study in Digital Literacy and Social Responsibility
Open access and the South Australian Red Cross Information Bureau: A case study in Digital Literacy and Social Responsibility
Open access and the South Australian Red Cross Information Bureau: A case study in Digital Literacy and Social Responsibility
Open access and the South Australian Red Cross Information Bureau: A case study in Digital Literacy and Social Responsibility
Open access and the South Australian Red Cross Information Bureau: A case study in Digital Literacy and Social Responsibility
Open access and the South Australian Red Cross Information Bureau: A case study in Digital Literacy and Social Responsibility
Open access and the South Australian Red Cross Information Bureau: A case study in Digital Literacy and Social Responsibility
Open access and the South Australian Red Cross Information Bureau: A case study in Digital Literacy and Social Responsibility
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Open access and the South Australian Red Cross Information Bureau: A case study in Digital Literacy and Social Responsibility

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A presentation for the University Libraries of South Australia Staff Development Working Group. 24 June, 2014.

What is the role of libraries in creating open access for public research, education and/or community information?

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  • 2014 marks the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War and the State Library of South Australia is proud to commemorate this anniversary through a series of projects under the heading Centenary of Anzac.

    These projects are managed by the Library’s Online Projects team and co-designed and co-created with the help of the Library community with several online resources and activities continuing during the 2014-2018 period.
  • The principal project is the creation of a new web resource of the records of the South Australian Red Cross Information Bureau (SARCIB) which was a tracing bureau for missing soldiers.

    We anticipate that this resource will be available early 2015.
  • From 1916 until 1919, the South Australian Red Cross Information Bureau (SARCIB) performed the service of undertaking research into 8,033 enquiries from family and friends of missing Australian Imperial Force personnel who fought in World War 1 (WW1).

    The legal profession bore the cost of running the Bureau and the co-ordination of activities (The Advertiser 1916, p.8).

    A ‘staff of ladies’ giving their services ‘free and freely, being glad to do their bit for the Empire’ undertook the office work.
  • A series of notices placed within SA newspapers invited those seeking news of the sick, wounded or missing, to contact the Bureau.

    Edmunds, CA 1916, ‘Red Cross Information Bureau’ The Register, 10 April, p.6, viewed 10 September 2013, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article59631123
  • The South Australian Bureau coordinated the enquiries between the military, families and other Bureaux nationally and internationally, analysing the results of those searching the hospital wards and convalescent homes for eyewitnesses who could tell them something about the missing. Often, the frank eyewitness statements show the realities of war. These are important because they take the reader straight to the time and give a glimpse of what they experienced.

    These statements are important because they may be the only recorded words of someone’s experience of the war. Sometimes they were included in the letters that the families ultimately received. Information on prisoners of war was gathered through ‘neutral intermediaries’. What makes these papers all the more compelling are the desperate letters from the families seeking information.
  • When an inquiry was received an index card was immediately written with the full particulars of the soldier enquired upon, on which card was also recorded from time to time a précis of the correspondence and results of enquiries made. Attached to and filed with this card was a carbon copy of all correspondence with a duplicate of the original enquiry instruction block. This was all placed in a packet carefully numbered and indexed.

    SRG 76/1/306
  • When an inquiry was received an index card was immediately written with the full particulars of the soldier enquired upon, on which card was also recorded from time to time a précis of the correspondence and results of enquiries made. Attached to and filed with this card was a carbon copy of all correspondence with a duplicate of the original enquiry instruction block. This was all placed in a packet carefully numbered and indexed.


    SRG 76/1/6644
  • The State Library of South Australia (SLSA) is undertaking the phased development of a web resource for this information that will enable other institutions, researchers and family historians worldwide to interrogate, contribute to and harvest the database, and highlight South Australia’s contributions to WW1.

    B 54050 – A historian at work.
  • https://flic.kr/p/aVw71v

    Along with providing the State Library of South Australia with an opportunity to be a part of the international centenary of WW1 programs, the South Australian Red Cross Information Bureau will contribute to our desire to:

    deliver a new online family history resource
    assist current and future generations of South Australians to access and learn from the South Australia collections
    provide opportunities for South Australians to know and value their heritage
    create another data set that contributes to the South Australian Government’s desire to make its data available to its citizens
    engage directly with the community
  • The State Library of South Australia is using its volunteer program to create a team of volunteers who are extracting details from copies (PDFs) created from the records and entering data into a spreadsheet.

    Volunteers were recruited via the TAFE Library Studies students email list, the UniSA Information Management email list, from existing State Library volunteers and the State Library’s social media channels.

    As we wanted to involve our community in the project from the beginning, we asked people what information they thought we needed to index from the enquiry packets. We wanted to know what they thought was important. What access points they needed to be able to locate the information.

    We made it easier by providing pre-filled data options to choose from.

    We asked the community to let us know where we had left something out, and gave them the facility to capture the information.

    We provided a facility to leave comments. Sometimes people left us too much information!!
    We had to let the community know what types of things we wanted comments left about.
  • Just like the Red Cross in London had to tell the Red Cross in South Australia.

    “You will no doubt use your own discretion as to how much of this you will tell his own people, but it is only right you should understand the position yourself in order to defend the Australian Red Cross against any unjust criticism. It is difficult for people in Australia to understand what war conditions really are, and it is really kinder to the relatives, especially if they are anxious Mothers and wives not to tell them too much.”


    (Excerpt from SRG 76/1/1418, page 8 written by Miss Me. E. Chomley, 22 August, 1918)
  • The engagement of our community in the co-design and co-delivery of this project has meant that we will be able bring to light the true nature of the reports and experiences that are contained in the South Australian Red Cross Information Bureau enquiry files.

    Recruiting volunteers for data entry is a natural alignment for this project, neatly creating a full circle that commenced with community involvement in 1915 and ends with volunteers in the 21st century.

    By the end of 2014 over 25 members of the community will have given an estimated 2,675 hours of their time to this project.
  • If you’re presenting to an audience, the final slide should include:
    Your contact information.
    Publications relevant to your presentation and of interest to the audience.
    Other relevant information for the audience to follow up if interested.
    Keep this slide on screen while the audience disperses.
  • Open access and the South Australian Red Cross Information Bureau: A case study in Digital Literacy and Social Responsibility

    1. 1. Open access & The South Australian Red Cross Information Bureau A case study in Digital Literacy and Social Responsibility
    2. 2. So what role does the State Library have in creating open access for public research, education and community information? Speech Bubble, Nic Walker, flickr
    3. 3. Prepared by: Katie Hannan, Coordinator, Online Projects hannan.katie@slsa.sa.gov.au Phone: 08 8207 7287 For More Information State Library of South Australia, North Terrace, Adelaide SA 5000 Phone: (08) 8207 7250 www.slsa.sa.gov.au

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