Woman with small child on her lap reading
Sally Hall reading with one of her grandchildren

It’s National Volunteer Week, so we’re celebrating all the dedicated, talented and inspiring people who volunteer with State Library Victoria, and we want you to meet some of them!

Sally Hall, is a retired librarian with a passion for local and family history, and long-time volunteer in the Australian Manuscripts Collection

‘I volunteer in the Library’s Australian Manuscripts section, transcribing and indexing. I’m a retired librarian. I began volunteering at State Library Victoria on 22 July 2004, after working at the Public Record Office Victoria (PROV) for 10 years as a volunteer and a staff member. Having been involved in the shipping index project there I felt I had skills that could be useful elsewhere, and the State Library seemed the obvious choice. After a few months I was joined by Dulcie Burns and we worked together until ill-health forced her retirement, and then Eril Wangerek started. The three of us had met through volunteering and working at PROV.

‘Over the years we have worked on many different items and collections at the Library. My favourite project is usually the one we are working on at the time, but one special one, which has taken several years, is the indexing of the Sheriff’s Office Warrants. This collection dates from 1838 and we have indexed up to and including 1869, some 82,000 entries in all. The information is often brief, but there are a few little nuggets of gold hidden amongst them, such as a physical description of a person, a map of an area of disputed land or an inventory of a hotel or farm. In many cases, as this was before the days of directories and telephone books, this information may be the only record of someone in the colony at the time. These sorts of details help to build a picture of the social history of Victoria. It is interesting that even the solicitors were in financial trouble at times and chased each other for money owing. The first State Librarian in Melbourne, Augustus Tulk, was one of those having a little financial bother, along with other well-known people such as John Batman and John Pascoe Fawkner.

‘The most rewarding part of volunteering at the Library is the privilege of working with original documents such as letters and diaries, of passengers sailing to Australia in the 1850s, those kept by early settlers or those living in the gold rush days. And, of course, making contact with the very knowledgeable and friendly staff. 

‘I have also spent many years researching family and local history and have produced several booklets – for family consumption only! With the current restrictions due to COVID-19, my life is very quiet at present and I find myself doing more cooking, reading and jigsaw puzzles, emailing friends and family, as well as having a few stir-crazy moments in between quick shopping trips for basics. Ordinarily we would have time on one day every week with our wonderful grandsons, aged 6 and 4, as well as spending one day each week at the Library.

‘Volunteering is important personally as it gives feelings of satisfaction and accomplishment, keeps the brain active and provides some structure to the week, which can be important to a retiree as otherwise the days blend together – as we are finding at present! It is wonderful to be able to use skills picked up through past experience and to feel that we are giving back to society, having profited from others in our own research. It is important for the Library too, as we undertake projects that enable more of the collection to be made accessible to the world through the website.’

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