John Wickenden

Obituary of Margaret Keeling, BA, MA, MCLIP, PhD

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

Freedom & Truth – Report of 2018 Annual Conference

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


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.

Our retiring President, Eddie Olliffe, and speakers Malcolm Martin and Mark Jones

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.

19 Members of CLIS who attended the Conference and AGM

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.

CLIS Annual Conference and AGM 14th April 2018

Today (Saturday 14th April 2018) 18 members of Christians in Library and Information Services (CLIS) met for their Annual Conference and AGM at the Salvation Army Regents Hall in London.

19 Members of CLIS who attended the Conference and AGM

The day started with a time of Worship and Prayer led by Karen Hans, our prayer secretary. The AGM followed chaired by Eddie Olliffe our retiring President. We received an annual report from Robert Foster (Chair) and the 2017 Accounts from our Treasurer, Diana Guthrie.

We then Elected the following Officers:
President: Richard Waller
Life Vice-President: Eddie Olliffe
Publications Editor: Graham Hedges
Membership Secretary: Janice Paine
Scottish Secretary: Anne MacRitchie

Our new President Richard Waller and retiring President Eddie Olliffe (now Life Vice-President)

The conference followed. The conference theme was “Freedom and Truth” and the speakers were

Our retiring President, Eddie Olliffe, and speakers Malcolm Martin and Mark Jones

Mark Jones, on “Gospel Freedom and the Workplace” and Malcolm Martin on “What is Truth? and how do we tell it?”. Both were excellent talks and the transcripts will follow in due course in “Christian Librarian”


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Bob Hartman on “Telling the Story – Again and Again”

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Manvers Street Baptist Church, Bath,

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2020 Vision: Communications in a Digital Age

CLIS Conference & AGM 2020

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Salvation Army's Regent Hall

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Walking tour of Westminster

Walking tour of Westminster

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