12th June 1954 – 25th October 2022
It is with deep deep sadness that we have to announce the sudden death in service of Sylvia Cummins, librarian with the Schools Library Service since 10th June 2002.
Sylvia’s funeral was held on Tuesday 29th November at City of London Crematorium.
Sylvia joined the Schools Library Service in 2002, having previously worked for Haringey public libraries. It was two days before her birthday and just prior to the start of the World Cup 2002 and, not being a football fan, immediately found herself keeping the service going whilst other members of staff, including the head of service, took toil in order to watch key matches. She took it all in her stride but got her own back when Wimbledon started! Over the years proved to be a dependable, warm, kind and considerate colleague and became a friend to us all. Her quiet ways belied her assertiveness and drive, and she excelled at encouraging others in the workplace to achieve and learn more. A most superb listener, she was the person most of us turned to when needing to share a confidence or seek advice. She knew so many secrets which she divulged to no-one.
She has been a key member of staff for over twenty years, instrumental in the day to day running of the library and latterly taking sole responsibility for managing the stock of the Schools Library Service and seeking out all the weird and wonderful resources that support the teaching of the curriculum.
As one of her sisters said, she did absolutely adore her job. In the very dim and distant past she worked in the private sector briefly, but her heart was in public service, working with her community. Education, libraries and bringing history to life were all her passions. She loved the incredible history, art and culture of the East End and was quite the ambassador for this in the service. Even whilst the borough was focussing on getting young people to look outside of Tower Hamlets, she was a voice that reminded us that people can still be allowed to be proud of where they live and grew up. Last year she won for us a Heritage Lottery Grant to create local history resources for children, and these suitcases, along with all the other resources she has sought out, will be her legacy to the children of this Borough.
A staunch believer in equality and social justice, she has been a lifelong Labour voter and trade union member, and loving gardening, crosswords, walking and reading, had great taste in movies, had an allotment and was a member of a variety of walking groups and reading clubs.
Sylvia is survived by a brother and two sisters and their families. Alongside her friends, they feel bereft by the suddenness of her death and the huge space she has left in their lives.
Sylvia seemed so fit and healthy, and she was the one who always encouraged us to eat fruit instead of biscuits at teatime! (Alison Rogans)
I worked with Sylvia earlier this year on the local history pack and found her so lovely and supportive to work with. (Linda Barker)
Sylvia’s quiet, calm way of working, and encouraging others was quite unique, and will be keenly missed. She always had time for others, and to pass on very sound advice from her depth of reading and experience. I cannot imagine the SLS without her. (Giles Harrison)
Sylvia was a dedicated public servant, knowledgeable about her service, a local history enthusiast and a kind and calming presence. It was a pleasure to work with her. (Tamsin Bookey)
She helped to develop the Service to Tower Hamlets schools because, like the rest of us, she believed in the value of what we were/are doing. But I think I value her most for her calm and generous personality which contributed to the close-knit atmosphere of friendship which prevailed/s in the workplace. (Judith Collins)