Learning Journey – Apprentice Library Assistant

My transition into an apprenticeship and the start of my time in the NHS followed a long journey of higher education, part-time work and an ongoing unfulfillment with my professional progress. Initially pursuing an undergraduate degree was driven as the next logical step after my A-Levels, and my postgraduate degree seemed to temporarily fill a gap I thought needed filled. Alongside my educational career I worked in various administration roles in different sectors which made do at the time but never left me satisfied. Working in a library was always a goal of mine, but I was never quite sure how to get there. The librarian felt like a role you were born into, and the path towards it seemed almost hidden.

Getting into my apprenticeship with Southmead Library was a fruitful result of a vigilant library career quest, including countless job searches and CV tweaks. When I saw the opportunity to join the LKS team as an apprentice I was immediately excited – professional and educational development? That was the dream! I was lucky enough to be picked for interview and when I received the congratulations call I was overcome with happiness and relief. My time in my role has far exceeded my expectations thanks to the brilliant team I have come into and my ever-growing understanding of what the role can encompass. A most recent example of this is getting the opportunity to look into decolonising the library collection, looking into expanding the diversity of both authors and visual content alongside compiling lists of reading materials and resources to implement. Being able to take on this project was not only relevant to me from a racial perspective, but highlighted the constant development of healthcare library collections and the potential for building more representative resources. I would never have imagined getting to undertake this kind of work so early in my role, so it has been a fruitful endeavour. In just under a year I feel I have come such a long way in my role thanks to the professional guidance of my colleagues, getting to grips with the daily operations of a healthcare library and opportunities to take on new responsibilities.

Though my journey to my current role felt longer than expected I do not regret any of my experiences. Undertaking two degrees allowed me to hone my writing capabilities and the academic research has largely helped with searching for articles and navigating library classifications. Whilst administration was never my long term goal, it meant I developed a wide set of transferrable skills of working with different systems and responsibilities that are found across many office-based jobs. Doing an apprenticeship at this stage in my life has allowed me to put my goals into action and given me clear direction on how I want my career to progress. Assignments set by LMP and projects arising in the workplace equip me with both a broad and specialist insight into library provision.

As a young professional, I hope my apprenticeship experience so far can help inform and encourage others looking for focused development to look into apprenticeship opportunities – it can introduce you to a whole new world of possibilities!

Shakira Rawlins
Library Assistant
Library and Knowledge Service, North Bristol NHS Trust
Southmead Hospital
Bristol BS10 5NB

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