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Learner Spotlight – Library Archives Jan 2021

Apprenticeships offer an opportunity to learn in a more practical way compared to classroom-based teaching. An apprenticeship provides on-the-job training and experience, and are paid roles, meaning you earn while you learn.

At WAES we offer a wide range of apprenticeships in a variety of sectors including Business Administration, Early Years, Customer Service and Outdoor Activity Instructors. Ahead of the upcoming National Apprenticeship Week (8 – 14 February 2021) we caught up with Zeba Qayyum, a WAES Learner on the Libraries, Information and Archives Assistant Apprenticeship scheme.

Hi Zeba, could you please introduce yourself and tell us about your role?

Hello everyone, my name is Zeba Qayyum, I am a Library Archives apprentice based at Church Street Library for Westminster City Council, where I shadow and train to be a Library Customer Service Officer. We deal with a variety of things, but our main core is to encourage reader development, computer literacy and skills for life for the local community in Westminster.

When did you start the apprenticeship and when are you due to finish?

I started around 1 April 2019 and my contract is due to finish 28 February 2021, so it will be finishing at the end of next month.

What were you doing before you took on this role?

I was working part-time in a retail job in Oxford Street which wasn’t fulfilling. In my spare time I was doing casual work for an art gallery and art charity. I did customer service work with visitors to the gallery and helped with art educational workshops for primary school children which was one of the most engaging things about the role.

What made you consider doing a library-based apprenticeship?

I got the idea for the library service when I applied for the library apprenticeship with the National Arts Library at the V&A. I didn’t get it because I wasn’t experienced enough at the time. However, I did want to go into a library role because, especially with public libraries nowadays, they expand into roles that encourage and enrich other people’s skills and knowledge. I’ve previously done work for different charities where I’ve worked with people who are tackling problems to do with mental health or well-being, and I assisted their computer software workshop. I found this role by chance when I looked on the National Apprenticeships website for a vacancy in Westminster City Council.

What are your day-to-day responsibilities?

During the lockdown I have been managing and running the children’s reading group online which has connected children within and outside of Westminster. My other day to day role is to assist others with computer literacy. Especially in the Church Street ward, competency and access to technology is very limited, so we want to encourage people to make use of the technology we have, obviously with social distancing measures.”

What have been your achievements during your apprenticeship?

Currently I have been working on projects for how we can develop resources for our diverse and ethnic communities such as the Arabic and Bangladeshi communities we serve at Church Street Library, and for people that have learning, physical or mental disabilities as well. This is a project I have been working on with other Library Customer Service Officers or Contract and Resources Officers. I joined the project as I believe we could do more to encourage diversity in children’s and adults’ books in terms of what characters are portrayed, not just ethnic representation but also characters that represent the LGBTQ+ communities in Westminster. I’ve planned sessions around Black History Month for which I did a session around black superheroes and Chadwick Boseman as a tribute to him. It has garnered a lot of interest and attendance. I am part of the BAME network and the Women’s network as I am a person of ethnic minority and part of the Pakistani community from East London. I believe this ties into my passion of encouraging diversity and inclusion within my workplace and within the type of work I do.

Now you are getting toward the end of your apprenticeship what are your long-term goals?

The apprenticeship has encouraged long term goals such as to continue working with the community and to encourage diversity and inclusion to make people feel welcome within the library space. Recently I found out about Islamophobia Awareness Month. For me that’s something I would like to work on because I come from a Muslim family. I want to look at figures that will bring a positive influence to the kid’s book club session that I want to hold in November when the Islamophobic Awareness Month will commence. Growing up, the only children’s books I read featured non-BAME characters and only characters of a certain religion, so it would be nice to show children that there can be characters like them. Especially now that children’s book authors and illustrators are more encouraged and feel more empowered to feature characters of different ethnic minorities and sexualities. It’s something I would like to continue as a long-term goal.”

What will you do when your apprenticeship finishes?

I have been applying for similar roles to work with the community. It’s something I never thought I would want to go into because I was not very confident in working with people in general before the apprenticeship, but I believe I would like to work with the community, with marginalised people, and people who have been economically displaced. Libraries nowadays become a focal point for countering loneliness and isolation, for homeless people, refugees, asylum seekers, members of the elderly community and just anyone that is in danger of being vulnerable. It brings the community together and that’s what I enjoyed about the apprenticeship. It shows that libraries have become, well have always been, essential in society. It’s for everyone.

To find out more about the apprenticeships WAES offer you can visit our apprenticeships page.