Student Spotlight: Labiba Faiza at ROAAr

Student employment in the McGill Library benefits the entire McGill community. At 135 strong this academic year, McGill Library student workers gain valuable work experience while engaging in academic pursuits.  Student navigators, curatorial interns, special project assistants and student researchers bring an immeasurable amount to the life and culture of the Library. Over the next few weeks, Library Matters will share testimonials from library student workers, many of whom come to us through programs like McGill’s Work Study Program and are supported by students societies and associations like the SSMU Library Improvement Fund (LIF), the Arts Undergraduate Society, the McGill Music Undergraduate Student Association (MUSA) and Post Graduate Students’ Society (PGSS). Thank you to all our student workers – your hard work and dedication mean the world to the Library and McGill!

Labiba Faiza

Labiba Faiza is second-year student double majoring in Cultural Studies and International Development and minoring in South Asian Studies. Labiba is a special projects assistant at ROAAr (Rare Books & Special Collections, Osler Library of the History of Medicine, Visual Arts Collection and McGill University Archives). Her position is supported by the SSMU.

Q: What made you want to apply to work for the Library?

Labiba Faiza (LF): Fall 2020 was my first semester in university. An entire year of online learning had made me feel very detached from McGill, so I wanted to get more involved with the university. Luckily, ROAAr was hiring!

Q: What kind of work have you been doing? Has it been virtual / onsite / hybrid?

LF: I mostly work on Voices From the Footnotes, a podcast by ROAAr. My responsibilities include audio transcription, research, and PR-related work. I often help out with library events as well, mainly offering tech support. So far most of the work has been virtual, but I hope that changes soon and events can be hosted in-person again. I actually started working at the library before ever having stepped foot inside, so that was interesting.

Q: What do you like about working at the Library?

LF: As someone who adores period dramas, my favourite part about working at ROAAr is that I’m always discovering and engaging with the past in fun ways. I particularly enjoyed going through Old McGill yearbooks while doing research for Voices From the Footnotes and getting a glimpse of what McGill was like decades ago. The 1969 one has to be a personal favorite, because it’s very reflective of the anarchist spirit of the times. Another perk is that I get to attend very insightful events and learn a great deal about history, art, and photography. I will not be running out of fun facts to share anytime soon!

Q: What surprised you the most about working at the Library?

LF: The community aspect of the library really surprised me. One of the first ROAAr events I assisted at was a virtual talk on vintage cookbook recipes, throughout which attendees were bonding over their love for bread-making, exchanging insights on vintage Pyrex, and sharing stories from their childhoods. I was a bit taken aback by how wholesome the chatroom was. I never imagined that a library could foster such a strong sense of community.

Q: Coolest, oddest, most interesting things you have come across/experienced?

LF: Just recently, I had the pleasure of browsing through some vintage greeting cards in ROAAr’s collection, the oldest of which date as far back as the early 1900s. While I really enjoyed looking at the pictures and illustrations from different time periods, what I loved most was reading the handwritten messages in them – meant for friends, lovers, and relatives. In a postcard from 1909, a woman named Bethia had written to her niece, “Excuse me for not writing before. I will do better next time.” However, I don’t think it was ever sent because there was no stamp on it. Holding these personal messages in my hand and getting a glimpse into the lives of people who lived over a century ago felt very special and surreal.

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