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Learner Spotlight Libraries Assistance, Feb 2022

For National Apprenticeship Week (7-13 February 2022) we caught up with Jessie Forbes. Jessie is currently completing her Level 3 Apprenticeship in Libraries, Information and Archive Services with WAES, whilst gaining practical on-the-job experience working in Guildford Library – and earning a wage.

Hi Jessie! Please introduce yourself and tell us what apprenticeship you are currently doing, and where.

My name is Jessie, and I am currently doing an apprenticeship in Library, Information and Archive services at Surrey Libraries. It consists of lots of customer service, a little bit of event planning, running story times and rhyme times for kids, and lots of lots of displays as well, which I absolutely love doing.

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

I started late October 2020 and I’m due to finish I think around April or May time depending on how everything runs for my project.

My project is a drag queen story time here at Guilford Library, I’m running it with a pantomime Dame who’s going to be telling stories to kids in our children’s library, almost like a performance and interactive experience for little ones. It’s for LGBTQ History Month as well which is in February. I’ve been planning it for a few months now and the slots are filling up quickly. I can’t wait.

What were you doing before you took on this role?

I was working at the National Trust in a visitor experience role. So basic customer service. It was great, I loved it. I’ve got a history degree so it was perfect for me, but I really wanted to find something that was a bit more challenging and fulfilling, which then made me look for apprenticeships.

What made you consider doing a library-based apprenticeship?

I had a little bit of experience with archives and things like that through my degree which I did at Leicester University.

I just really like the idea of learning, but also being paid like that’s kind of the dream. It’s a really good balance between learning new skills, but also using my previous skills and then also doing an actual job, like having a full-time job whilst I’m gaining a diploma.

It was this or a masters and I was like, uh, I definitely would rather not be paying like 10 grand a year. You get more out of an apprenticeship. You get experience, real life experience, not just education, which for me that works perfectly.

What are your day-to-day responsibilities?

Day to day it’s basically going between different service points. So at Guilford Library where I work we have three different desks that you can be on because it’s really big building, so I’ll spend maybe 3 hours in a day working with customers, and then I’ll spend another part of my day responding to emails trying to sort out events.

Sometimes I will also be working on displays which is my favourite thing to do. Another part of my day is just basic library work, so like shelving, finding books on the shelf that people have reserved and then we send them off to other libraries.

It’s definitely different than what I expected. I think when you think of working in the library, I thought you’re going to be just putting books on shelves or you’re going to be walking around and talking to people, but it’s not at all. I don’t actually do that much shelving in a day.

You get a lot of freedom in your role because you can do what you feel is needed at the time. And so if the customer needs serving, then great I’ll serve that customer. But if I’m sat on a desk with nothing to do, I will work on some arts and crafts or figure out what my next event is going to be.

What have been your main achievements during your apprenticeship?

So definitely my number one is I relaunched the Guilford Library of Things. That is an initiative that started, I think in 2019 and then was completely put on pause because of the pandemic. Last April I relaunched it so I rebranded, I catalogued everything, put everything that we had on our new system. So now people can come in and they can borrow things like a jet wash, a carpet cleaner, we’ve got like all kinds of hand tools, garden tools.

I’m working currently with zero Carbon Guilford, who are charity and they are helping with the promo. They’re also helping with volunteers.

It’s just a really amazing Green initiative, so borrow, don’t buy. It makes so much sense, there’s less waste and you don’t have to buy a jet washing machine to only use it once, you can borrow one for free and just give it back when you’re finished.

I’ve had very brief discussions with a few other charities to start similar initiatives. Reconnections Guilford were looking at starting a human library where you can come in and there would be a group of people that are happy to just sit and you borrow one of those people and they would tell you their life story which sounds amazing.

we’ve also got love Hazelmere Hate waste. I had a meeting with them a couple of weeks ago and they would like to set one up at Haslemere library. Also Godalming library is looking at starting one up.

I mean, I didn’t expect to do that while doing an apprenticeship. I didn’t quite realize how much Freedom and how much I can do even though I’m an apprentice, it’s crazy.

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

Ultimately after my apprenticeship I’m looking at going into archive work so there’s a few jobs popping up at the moment at the National Archives, which I’m very tempted by.

That or going into community engagement within the heritage sector. I’ve got a lot of experience with community engagement here at the library, so I work with children, groups and schools and charities and things like that.

I’m looking at also possibly doing a masters, but it’s whether I need it or not is more the question. I might not actually need it for what I’m looking at going into so.

What will you do when your apprenticeship finishes? Has your apprenticeship helped you to achieve these goals?

Well, I didn’t know what my career goals were before I started. If I’m being completely honest. I left university and just started working at pubs and then the National Trust. And now I’m here. So when I started my apprenticeship, my sort of goal was to end up doing a masters. But now my career goals are very different to when I started. It’s definitely helped me to know what I want to do now, if that makes sense.

It’s taught me a lot about myself as well as a person. As a professional I know that I never want to stop doing customer service. I love it. I’m great at it and I also love working with kids, but I don’t want to be a teacher so this is a really good balance between everything that I really enjoy doing.

What advice would you give to someone considering doing an apprenticeship?

Do it! I wish I had done an apprenticeship when I left school because it very much suited my needs. I mean I enjoyed university. Don’t get me wrong but an apprenticeship would have started me off a lot better and I’d be where I am now but younger.

So just work hard. And If you’re thinking about an apprenticeship I can’t think of any sort of downfalls, like there’s not really many negatives that come with doing it. As long as you find the right one for you. Don’t just apply to anything that you think ‘Oh that’s alright’. Apply to something that you that you want to do and that you want to spend 2/3/4 years doing.

Click here to find out more about apprenticeships at WAES