Obituary: John Owston

John Owston (or “Johnny O” as he was known to many friends and colleagues) worked as librarian at the Oxford and Cambridge Club from 1994 to 2004 and in library and information services at the BBC World Service from 1979 to 1993. John was an “old school” reference librarian with a love of books and literature and a passion for learning. He relished enquiry and research work and his extensive general knowledge and conscientious approach meant that he was both trusted and respected by all who dealt with him.

John was a long-serving and engagingly affable member of the CILIP ISG (London and South East Section) committee. His work at the BBC World Service and his various career moves meant that his knowledge of London’s network of institutional, learned society and specialist cultural libraries was considerable. It became a major source of potential destinations for the ISG’s programme of library visits.

As well as contributing to the design and content of the Section’s one-day training courses, John frequently provided a pair of ‘willing hands’ on the day. As the Section’s representative on the ISG national committee he could always be relied on to give a succinct report on its discussions via his ‘alternative minutes’.

He died in Ealing Hospital on 11 April, a few months short of his 80th birthday, following a massive heart attack. He will be much missed.

Ian Van Arkadie and David Baynes

(A fuller version of this obituary is published in CILIP Update)

For a number of years John was a valued member of the ISG Reference Awards judging panel.  His contributions to the discussions on the nominations were thorough, considered and astute. His knowledge on subjects was wide ranging but he always gave his opinions in a quiet, unassuming way.

John also represented ISG SE on the national committee where he gave interesting and detailed reports on the activities of the Section, as well as joining in other discussions.

Amanda Duffy, ISG


Refer 31 (2) Summer 2015


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