John Wickenden

National Libraries Day – Celebrating Libraries and Librarians

● What will you be doing on Saturday 6 February 2016? This has been designated as National Libraries Day, involving school, college, university, workplace and especially public libraries across the UK. National Libraries Day is an initiative of the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals and details can be found at www.nationallibrariesday.org.uk The aim of the event is to celebrate libraries, library staff and their communities all over the UK.

● The members of Christians in Library and Information Services are encouraging their fellow Christians to promote libraries during and beyond National Libraries Day. For example, some churches may be able to include a prayer of thanksgiving for our heritage of books, libraries, and other media, during a service on the nearest convenient Sunday, or at a mid-week meeting. Library supporters might be able to say a few words about libraries during a service, house group meeting, or similar event. In addition to encouraging library use in general a congregation could be recommended to use their local public library as a source for Christian books since .a steady demand for Christian titles is one way of ensuring that such books are properly represented on the library shelves.

Digging Deeper into Christian Thought – CLIS Annual Lecture

DIANA GUTHRIE reports on the CLIS Annual Public Lecture held in Salisbury Library on Saturday 17 October 2015

Our President, Eddie Olliffe, introduced this year’s speaker, the distinguished writer, Church of England Reader, and Group Chair of the Royal National Institute of Blind People: Kevin Carey, who spoke on the theme of ‘The role of the Christian librarian in a theologically turbulent age’.

Kevin Carey began with this paraphrase of Winston Churchill’s familiar saying, ‘Never have there been so many theologians writing so much for so few’. This prefaced a lecture which ranged very widely over a spectrum of ideas with which modern Christians should be concerning themselves  and which dug deep into Christian thought and traditions. What follows in this brief report is a précis of some of the topics covered, which gave rise to nearly half an hour of questions and comments afterwards.

A lot of the ills in Christianity can be traced back to the exercise of inordinate power. This was recently illustrated by the long-running debate over women bishops.  It ultimately comes down to the question, ‘Who has the authority to determine the meaning of Scripture?’ Christianity must make room for enquiry, but this should not become a merely intellectual pursuit. Our primary preoccupation must always be: what must we do to establish the kingdom of heaven on earth?

The modern tendency is to concentrate on private moral conduct at the expense of social and economic justice. The 1980s document Faith in the City  was a rare instance of an organisational attempt to redress the balance, but its political effects were short-lived, and there’s an instinctive secular suspicion that we’ve not lived up to Biblical instructions on social justice. God is love and created us in love, and we need to express that love in action rather than judgment. We cannot separate Christianity from politics.

Why does ‘the God of love’ allow suffering? This is probably the most common question asked of us, and we are fatally handicapped as Christian witnesses if we can’t attempt an answer. It all goes back to the Fall.  Where did the serpent / evil come from? If there was a serpent, then God probably spoke through it. The world was not created to fit human ideas of perfection; we are God’s broken creatures, deliberately made so. We can’t love unless we have free will, and we can’t have free will in a perfect world. But having free will, we should exercise it in compassion and empathy. Most of the bad things that happen are the result of human fault, (though there are obvious exceptions to this rule of thumb). Suffering in itself is not sin; sin is being responsible for or being indifferent to suffering. What is at stake is not suffering but human identity.

The role of the librarian can be compared with that of the theologian, in promoting enquiry and discussion. Both librarians and theologians are the mats under the feet of those wishing to explore the world of ideas, and we should see ourselves as the servants of those who seek our assistance. The core purpose of librarianship is to point out the possibilities that lie beyond our sphere of knowledge or our comfort zone.

The Lecture was rounded off with a vote of thanks from CLIS Chair, Robert Foster, and then tea.

Diana Guthrie, MA, serves on the executive committee of  Christians in Library and Information Services as Treasurer.

Sarum College Library Visit October 2015

JANICE PAINE reports on a visit by CLIS members on Saturday 17 October 2015

Sarum College is an ecumenical theological college situated in Salisbury’s beautiful cathedral close. The Librarian Jayne Downey was our host on this Saturday morning, and explained the history of the college, which since its foundation in 1860 has had various merges and changes in the type of courses offered. It now provides mainly Anglican ministerial training for about one hundred full or part-time students, plus another one hundred and twenty students on four three-year MA courses. The site includes a Victorian chapel, a public bookshop (with second  hand department), Bed and Breakfast accommodation, and of course a substantial library of about forty-two thousand  books.

As well as providing material for the on-site courses, Jayne (with the help of seven volunteers) provides for external paying users such as local ministers, Moorlands Bible College students, and visits from two   local schools. The library is housed in a recently refurbished extension to the main Georgian building – we loved the comforting red carpet! – and there is an additional stack area for eleven thousand  pre-1900 works. A sample of the oldest works was displayed for us, including a 1545 Bible. There are about forty journal titles, and a strong liturgical and church music resource.

The service has many up to date facilities including the Heritage on-line catalogue, some on-line resources including e-journals and the American Theological Library Association  Religion Database, access to the University of Durham e-resources. Inter-library loans and postal loans are also available.

Website address: www.sarum.ac.uk/library

Many thanks to Jayne and the college for their hospitality, including a delicious lunch!

Janice E.  Paine, MCLIP, serves on the executive committee of  Christians in Library and Information Services  as Membership Secretary.