The ‘elite of their profession’: the impact on professional practice of the Office of War Information libraries and their librarians in the British dominions during World War II

MARY, Carroll (2013) The ‘elite of their profession’: the impact on professional practice of the Office of War Information libraries and their librarians in the British dominions during World War II. Paper presented at: IFLA WLIC 2013 - Singapore - Future Libraries: Infinite Possibilities in Session 164 - Library History Special Interest Group.

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Language: English (Original)
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Abstract

The ‘elite of their profession’: the impact on professional practice of the Office of War Information libraries and their librarians in the British dominions during World War II

In the midst of World War II, as the attention of the Allies shifted to the Pacific, seven civilian women from the United States (US) arrived at The Heads, Sydney, Australia after fourteen days aboard a navy ship. Amongst these women were four librarians, members of a contingent of US Office of War Information (OWI) personnel sent to operate information centres, with the help of local staff in key cities, worldwide. Plans for the establishment of information libraries followed the success of the US Information Library opened in London in 1942 and were part of an emerging US agenda to employ access to information in support the war effort and promote democracy. The momentum of the success of the London OWI library was to propel the establishment of further centres and in 1943 the first of these new centres were established in four of the ‘British Dominions’-- that is Australia, New Zealand, India and South Africa. The US librarians’ arrival in Australia in 1944 followed in the wake of an injection of Carnegie Corporation funding during the previous decade and during a defining period in the development of the Australian library profession. Focussing on the OWI library in Melbourne, Australia, and using the records of key personnel and agencies, this paper will critically reflect on the significance and impact of the activities of these libraries for the professional communities in which they were established.

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