Tributes paid to former head of library who played important part in town life
- Credit: Nick Butcher
A long-time Beccles resident and former head of the town’s library for three decades, has died aged 95.
Yvonne Stocks first came to Suffolk in 1949 as schools librarian for the county. She was based in Ipswich but travelled around all around Suffolk’s village schools in her library van.
Three years later, she sailed to Canada for a 12-month exchange, working at the Boys and Girls House in Toronto – famed for its collection of children’s books. On her return, she moved to Beccles, where she became divisional librarian, in charge of 11 branches in north Suffolk as well as library vans and the supply of books to Blundeston Prison, which closed in 2013.
Her niece Elaine Stocks said: “Beccles Library underwent huge changes on her watch, two of the biggest being the move to the current site in Blyburgate in 1972, and the introduction of computers. She was very instrumental in getting the present library built and shaping its design.
“She was very involved in the life of the town – a keen swimmer in the outdoor pool, an active member of the Worker’s Educational Association, the choral society and the Probus Club. She also helped to establish the Beccles Museum in the old Leman School in Ballygate in 1996, and worked as a volunteer for many years.”
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Miss Stocks was born in Birkenhead near Liverpool. When war broke out in 1939, she and her younger sister Jackie were evacuated to a farm in Denbigh, North Wales. Six months later the sisters returned to Liverpool, just in time for the heavy bombing of this major port city. The family, which now included baby brother Ian, spent most nights in the air raid shelter in the garden.
Miss Stocks left school and joined Liverpool Library Service. This was 1941 and she often had to shelter in doorways if there were bombings as she walked home from work. A little later, she also did a two-year teacher training course, so in addition to her library qualifications, she also had a teacher’s certificate. After this, she taught for a few years at Chalfont St Giles Primary School in Buckinghamshire, before coming to Suffolk.
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Elaine said her aunt employed many of her staff straight from school, teaching them all the Dewey Decimal system and providing excellent training that stood them in good stead all their careers.
She said: “Many of her former ‘girls’ have been in touch to share their memories. One said: ‘Miss Stocks was passionate about libraries and their importance, and was quite ahead of her time with her philosophy. She really wanted people to use libraries and for them to be a resource in a far broader way, for them to be much more open and free-flowing – much more part of the community.’
“Another described her as ‘the best boss I ever had’. All said that she was caring and very protective of her staff, but could also be tough when she needed to be.”
Miss Stocks died on February 12 at Oulton Park Care Home.
Her funeral was held at the Waveney Crematorium on March 13, followed by a gathering at the Waveney House Hotel.