Lois Cooper writes: Ever since some of my family moved to Oxford area I have wanted to visit “The Kilns”, Home of CS Lewis, where he wrote many of his books. I was very pleased when the “Christians in Library and Information Services” arranged a group visit. It gave me a chance to visit family, and avoid a day trip from the Isle of Wight.
Conveniently there was an exhibition “Tolkien – Maker of Middle Earth” at Weston Library, so went there as well, having to dodge the cameras of tourists around Oxford! A confession here is that even though I read The Hobbit, I started reading “The Lord of the Rings” and felt I had better things to do with my time! I did watch the recent films as they came out in January, and January is a bleak month to celebrate one’s birthday. The exhibition was busy and I did find it interesting.
The following day met up with the Library group at The Kilns. CS Lewis wanted a remote location because of his unusual family relationships. Mrs Moore was the owner of the home, Lewis and Warnie were the tenants. They also had a pessimistic gardener living with them, whom it is said that Lewis modelled Marsh-wiggle after in the Silver Chair, written at The Kilns. It is a quirky 1922 home, quite dark rooms, built on the site of two kilns. They lived there 1930 to 1963. In fact the lightest room was CS Lewis bedroom but would have been the coldest too with two outside walls! He kept the door locked between him and Mrs. Moore and had stairs to the ground outside, so it would look right!
We were given a tour of the house and a brief history of his time there. The first room we went to was where CS Lewis received visitors. Blanket was used for the curtains (the original ones fell apart!), walls were nicotine stained and ash was put on the carpet to keep the moths away. We went through several downstairs bedrooms to a library. When he died there were 5,000 books in the house. Some were going up the stairs (I felt good about that as I have books going up the stairs!)The library was called “The Grudge”, a copy of the rooms at Merton College. He wasn’t allowed to have his unusual family with him and his fellow lecturers found Narnia embarrassing. They weren’t detective novels, which was considered ok! The group showed interest in a painting – The Bird and Baby Sign, where the inklings met. It is now “The Eagle and child”. The piano was there where Maureen (Mrs Moore’s daughter) had lessons.
Warnies rooms were where he could escape from the women of the house. There were various photographs of CS Lewis and the family in the rooms. At the top of the steep stairs in the attic there was a model of Narnia –snow covered trees and the lamp post which was tastefully done. Finally we finished in the kitchen and then the dining room. There was alot of land with the house but this was sold for houses, and the lake (a disused quarry) and site of the underground bunker has been made into a nature reserve. We visited this afterwards.
Our next stop was Holy Trinity Church where CS Lewis worshipped for over thirty years. He didn’t like staying behind and talking to people, the same with his lectures! We were shown the graves of CS Lewis and Mrs Moore. Then went into the church to view the window which has been etched with scenes of Narnia, in memory of a couple of local children who died young. The window changes as the light shines through it. Aslan the Lion is shown as a sun, emphasising the lion as a Christ-like figure radiating light and life. The word Narnia appears amongst the rays of light coming from his mane, emphasising Aslan’s role as life giver to Narnia. It features the Castle Cair Paravel, Fledge, the magic apple tree, a talking tree and other animals. I thought it was tastefully done.
Dr. Dorothy Margaret Keeling died on 27 March 2018 after a long battle against cancer.
Prior to her retirement in 2004, Margaret held senior positions in the public library services in Staffordshire and Essex, finishing her career as Head of Libraries, Information, Heritage and Culture in Essex.
Margaret Keeling’s first permanent appointment in Staffordshire was as Mobile Librarian in Lichfield from September 1986. She held a number of positions after that and she was appointed as County Librarian in 1998.
Margaret came to Essex from Staffordshire in September 2001, having come down early for a couple of days in August to help steer the service’s response to a Best Value Review report. The way in which Margaret was able to steer the potentially difficult situation which the report might have resulted in, by agreeing with its findings and simultaneously putting together a coherent and positive plan to take the service forward, set the tenor for her work and leadership in Essex. Margaret was very much a leader with a clear vision for the future and a firm idea of how to achieve this. She worked hard herself and expected her colleagues to do the same. Fools were not suffered but she always placed the welfare of staff very much to the fore.
There was an enjoyable retirement party at the Essex Record Office in September 2004 where many of her past colleagues from public libraries gathered to wish her well. Whilst she was in Essex Margaret stayed in a Chelmsford flat but after retirement she returned to Staffordshire and her family before a move to Woodbridge in Suffolk where her funeral took place on 20 April 2018.
Margaret was a lifelong Christian and, while in Essex, worshipped at the Central Baptist Church in Chelmsford where she is still remembered. She served for several years as the fifth President of the Librarians’ Christian Fellowship. In this role she chaired conferences, wrote articles, and contributed to the review group which led to the organisation’s name change to Christians in Library and Information Services in 2014. Margaret was also involved in the work of the Christian Book Promotion Trust and its Speaking Volumes scheme in which grants were made towards Christian books for libraries of all kinds.
Our prayers and sympathies go to Margaret’s husband, Brian, and members of her family, at this sad time of bereavement.
Geoff Elgar – Formerly of Essex Libraries
Alan Medway – Library Service Operations Manager, Staffordshire Library and Information Service
Graham Hedges – Secretary, Christians in Library and Information Services
First appeared in the “Information Professional”, September 2018
ROBERT FOSTER reports on this year’s Annual Conference held on Saturday 14 April 2018 at the Salvation Army’s Regent Hall in Central London
FREEDOM AND TRUTH
There can’t be too many organisations who have their annual conference in London’s Oxford Street. Twice in three years now, CLIS has conducted its main event at the Salvation Army’s Regent Hall, literally a stone’s throw from Oxford Circus. There on a warm April day we gathered for our AGM and to hear two excellent talks both of which could hardly have been more topical at the time. There was also a short act of worship, featuring some boldy sung hymns, and time to meet and chat with other delegates.
Just a few weeks before the conference, there was some sad news that our former President and Vice-President, Margaret Keeling had died. Prayers were said for her family, and we were reminded of her warmth as a person, and of her very significant contribution to CLIS. As a former head of public library services in Staffordshire, and then Essex, she had many years of experience to draw upon, and we were grateful for her wisdom, empathy and sense in a number of situations, both as a CLIS leader and as a past conference speaker.
It was fitting then that our first speaker had some particularly practical advice to share with us. Mark Jones from the Lawyers’ Christian Fellowship had as his title ‘Gospel freedom and the workplace‘. I confess I wondered if the talk would cover some high-profile disputes over religious expression, with an emphasis on the difficulties Christians sometimes face. This was not the case, though; his talk was more about what the law currently permits, and how we can continue to maintain our Christian witness without fear.He acknowledged that there had been good cases lost in the courts, but pointed out that other losses were the result of bad cases. It came as a surprise to most of us, I think, to learn that there are serious financial penalties for employers who discriminate unfairly on grounds of religion, more so than for example, on age. Some other key points were the need for us to be gentle and respectful, not pressing Christian doctrine when colleagues don’t wish to talk about it (which could be deemed harassment); yet to be straightforward and transparent, as the more unusual it becomes for people to mention matters of faith, the less acceptable it will be as far as the law is concerned.
There were a number of questions which followed. It was asked if it was ever right to talk to clients or customers about beliefs; Mark Jones said it could be, but it was necessary to be even more winsome than with colleagues, and to bear in mind the appropriate boundaries. Could Christian organisations ask for a Christian in a job ad? Yes, so long as the nature of the job itself required it. What was the difference between being offended and harassment? The law clearly indicates that it is a matter of perception, but the complaint still has to be reasonable to be upheld. How do people from other religions deal with our laws? This depends very much on their religious calling, and on their own response to the rule of law.
After an ample buffet, which was included in our conference fee, Malcolm Martin from the Christian People’s Alliance spoke on ‘What is truth and how do we know it?‘ He pointed out that fake news starts with a story which gains credibility; is also based on what the listeners or readers would like to believe (or would suspect is the case); and which is then confirmed by others, creating what is called an ‘echo’. It is the combination of these three elements which determines how big an effect the news story will have. We were shown a series of hoaxes, from the amusing if astonishing pictures of a super-giant anaconda in the Amazon, to Alex Malarkey’s book The Boy who came back from Heaven which, to the sadness of many, had turned out to be fiction. But it is the world of sensational news stories, often picked up across social media in the first place, which presents us with a particular problem, because in most cases the source of the story is unknown or disguised.
Fortunately, web addresses can be monitored for activity, and this tends to show up suspect sources: those which are active twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, clearly can’t come from an individual, and may even be automated so as to provide a stream of news designed to alter perceptions. Most of us don’t have that kind of monitoring technology, but Malcolm Martin was able to give us some pointers to help us spot fake news: pronouncements of outright denial, stories designed to create or amplify conflict, and perhaps most obviously, prose in poor English should be all treated with caution.
The issue of state-sponsored counterfeit news and cyber-crime came up at various stages, and unsurprisingly this drew a number of responses. One delegate pointed out that in the Times newspaper that day, a lecturer from a UK university had agreed with the Russian view that the recent chemical bombing in Syria was a western strategy. Another person asked whether the Russian involvement in the Skripal poisoning had actually been proven. What about fake news before the internet? This topic was picked up by someone who remembered the claim and counter-claim surrounding the assassination of President Kennedy. The speaker felt that in some cases we could stand back and see clear evidence for responsibility and notice the tell-tale signs of fake news where we can. And what about us as Christians? Are we prone to gullibility? It was pointed out that some Christians had made much of the report of a ‘lost day’ in the solar system, attributed to NASA, as a confirmation of an Old Testament account of the sun standing still. We do well to be circumspect, it seems.
The day was rounded off by our new President, Richard Waller, giving a vote of thanks. He reinforced the tribute given in the AGM to Eddie Olliffe for his outstanding leadership of CLIS, particularly when Graham Hedges was in hospital. Graham in turn was thanked for his efforts in arranging the day, and not least for his continuing work as Secretary and Editor of our publication, which has now reached the forty year milestone. As always, back issues of Christian Librarian were on display for people to take away.
Another excellent conference thus ended, giving us questions to ponder and much to reflect on, not least in the worship time when Karen Hans had reminded us how difficult it is to be a Christian in some countries.The presence of petitions on the information desks reminded us that we shouldn’t take what we have for granted, and that we can still have a workplace Christian organisation.
Robert Foster, BA, DipIM, MCLIP, is Chair of Christians in Library and Information Services and works as an Assistant Librarian at the Royal College of Music.