Interview with Church Street Library Apprentice: Zeba Qayyum
With the start of the new academic year, we caught up with Zeba who just completed a Level 3 Library, Information and Archive services Assistant apprenticeship and is now working as a permanent staff member of the library team at Church Street library. After finishing her degree, Zeba wasn’t sure what were the next steps for her. In this interview she discusses what she has learnt and how she ended up getting an apprenticeship she enjoyed with Westminster’s library service with the support of her colleagues and managers.
Please can you tell us a little bit about why you decided to do an apprenticeship?
This goes back to after I graduated, in my creative degree in illustration art I wanted to go into different fields such as be a graphic designer or children’s book illustrator however job opportunities were scarce and difficult to obtain at the time. So whilst I was working part time in the city I did voluntary work for different charities in my spare time to build upon different skills and experiences and to meet new people as it helped with the wellbeing aspect of my life and that was until I was volunteering for an art gallery at King’s Cross, for almost a year that I had this idea of doing an apprenticeship from the curator there who said that she did a museum apprenticeship after her degree and that helped kickstart her career while earning a wage because that’s the positive of doing an apprenticeship you’ll be able to learn in an affordable way whilst building upon new skills and to start your career as well. So, it was when I was looking at different museum apprenticeships, I came across an opportunity with the V&A. However, I didn’t get the role so I thought if not in a museum or gallery I thought a library will be good because they are a fulfilling role to go for as they are public service, they help with building upon people’s cultural enrichment and passion to read and learn. So, I randomly typed in apprenticeships in the libraries’ websites and just by chance came across and opportunity with Westminster city council. I got the interview and I aced it and that was the start of my journey with Westminster council’s library service
What did you learn through your apprenticeship? And what did you enjoy the most?
There were many things I learnt about the library service, firstly is that nowadays they are the heart of the communities and that libraries a cradle to grave service as they are the first thing a child remembers from their childhood. I came across people that used to come to libraries saying, “I remember coming here since I was a child or since I was in school” and Church Street library especially has worked with members of the elderly communities because we used to hold tea parties here that was organised by my colleague Patsy. It’s a place for all ages to come in and feel safe and to socialise with people and it’s a point of meeting for different communities there and it’s a place that encourages you to learn regardless of what age you are and that’s one of the most important things I learned during my apprenticeship. It has increased my confidence a lot, which is handy in my personal life and there are times where I learnt to stand my ground if I came across any difficult members of the public or if I’m trying to get the point across. Those experiences taught me that I must use my own perspective on any situation or any project I am working on.
Now you have finished your apprenticeship What are your current plans and what are you currently up to and hoe has the apprenticeship helped you towards this?
Well, the first plan is when Church Street library gets its next apprentice and I’m hoping to be a mentor to that apprentice. To share my experiences and share my advice, suggestions and increase that person’s confidence so they feel comfortable enough to share their ideas about how the library service can be improved or what we can do to engage the community. Especially since ideas are much needed in this pandemic as the lockdown has affected the connection and wellbeing of the community.
Could you say some things about how you’ve gone form the apprenticeship to a permanent employee here for the video just how you applied for the role?
Before the vacancies form Westminster came out, I applied for ones from various councils as a sort of practice even though my heart was set with Westminster. I applied for the role luckily, I had help creating a statement and interview practice from my managers and colleagues as a way for making up for the hard work I had demonstrated for them at the start of my apprenticeship. I really couldn’t have gotten the role by myself, so I want to thank all my colleagues and managers that helped me. And were there to give me advice and the new skills and knowledge they taught me. I applied internally at the library of the customer service role, and I did well at the interview.
What advice would you give to someone thinking about starting an apprenticeship? It depends because an apprenticeship is a balance, and it depends what area you want to go to be honest. What’s good about an apprenticeship is that you learn on the go whilst on a wage so it’s more affordable. I know due to the pandemic a lot of the degrees have moved online which can affect the wellbeing of others, with an apprenticeship there’s a lot of benefits to it and if you don’t want to do it when you leave school you can do it at a later age so there is never like a time limit. I did learn that the oldest apprentice in the country is 76 years old! when I attended the London Government Apprentice Event which was an all-day event done physically but this year it was done virtually due to COVID. I had a Q&A with the cabinet minister in charge of apprentices and she shared several facts like this funny story that the 76-year-old apprentice’s wife wanted him to get out of the house more, so he managed to get one in software or space engineering. The whole areas of apprenticeships are expanding, which is good, like it’s not limited to a few sectors. Me and a couple of other people were the first in the library sector.