It's Library Week! Not only that, but today is Library Workers Day, so please celebrate with us by giving our chat with Nico D'Archangel, library technician and chair of the Virginia Library Association's LGBTQIA+ Forum, a listen.
Grace Ball 00:23
Welcome to How Do I Book? by Wildling Press. We like to chat about book writing, book publishing, book marketing, and of course, book reading. We're trying to help new and experienced authors develop their craft, widen their perspectives, and learn to get a little wild every once in a while. I'm Grace and I am so stoked, because, in case you haven't heard, today is Library Workers Day. And in fact, it's Library Week, all week long. So the celebration will continue. But today we're celebrating by having a little chat with the one and only Nico D'Archangel, who is a library technician at the Richmond Public Library and currently the chair of Virginia Library Association's LGBTQIA+ Forum. So, Nico, thank you so much for joining us.
Nico D'Archangel 01:17
Thank you for having me.
Grace Ball 01:18
Yeah! Alright, so before we get started, Nico, what are your pronouns?
Nico D'Archangel 01:22
My pronouns are he/him, please.
Grace Ball 01:25
Nico, would you mind just letting our listeners know a little bit about yourself?
Nico D'Archangel 01:28
Sure. I've got experience in archives, interlibrary loan, use services, and circulation so far, but of course, it being a library, there's always more to learn. And I'm very much an activist for accessibility in libraries, as well as making sure libraries are safe places for both queer and BIPOC staff as well as patrons.
Grace Ball 01:49
Yes, thank you so much. That's awesome. So just a little bit of context for our listeners, Christina and I had the opportunity to connect with Nico at the Queer and Trans Author Expo event here in Richmond. And we've basically wanted to be your best friends ever since. So I'm super excited to get to talk to you today! So let's get into the interview. Nico, how long have you been with the Richmond Public Library?
Nico D'Archangel 02:21
I've been with Richmond Public Library for four years. I started out part time in the children's department here at Main. And then a few months in, I got snagged over to the West End branch. And I got full time over there since then.
Grace Ball 02:36
Awesome. That's cool. What kind of led you down this career path?
Nico D'Archangel 02:40
No joke, I literally wanted to be a librarian since I was in the second grade, I just absolutely loved reading.
Grace Ball 02:44
That's so cool!
Nico D'Archangel 02:46
I would help out my school librarian, like making sure all books are in order--they've got to be alphabetical, Dewey Decimal. I just thought it was the best thing ever and absolutely loved reading. And so I started off volunteering at my local library and working my way up, worked in my college library, worked at this library, this part of archives, because I grew up with my dad doing genealogy. And so that's very tied to history and libraries. It's the best thing ever. And one of these days, I will get my master's degree so that I can earn that capital L in librarian.
Grace Ball 03:19
Oh, yeah. Man, I know you'll do that. So it sounds like your position, at least with Richmond Public Library, has kind of changed a bit over the years. I'm interested to hear kind of what that transition looked like. And if you could describe a day at work four years ago versus what a day at work now kind of looks like.
Nico D'Archangel 03:39
Sure I can do that. Whenever I was hired in the children's department, I was their nights and weekends person. And so I'd be coming in when most of the main staff was getting ready to go home, and then I'd have the late shift, three or four hours at a time, rarely saw anybody. Just got to have fun playing with the books, looking at the new things that come in. I wrote pretty often for the blog in the early days, because I'm like, I'm sitting here, there's no shelving I can do. There's nothing else, so I'm gonna read this book and I'm gonna write about it kind of thing. Today, though, it looks very different from the full time. First thing in the morning, we always get there roughly an hour before we open, do our registers for the day, we print off a holds list. So that's the items people have requested in the last twenty-four hours that are at our branch. And so we go through the whole building trying to find all these books. The list can be anywhere from two to fifteen pages long, depending on the day.
Grace Ball 04:36
Wow. Oh my gosh. So do you kind of have an idea of what your day is going to look like before you go in? Or is it a bit of a mystery?
Nico D'Archangel 04:44
If it's coming back after a holiday we know it's going to be busy. If it's a really nice day outside we don't have as many people coming in. So one of those rainy, drizzly days we get a lot of families coming in. The West End branch has like a little puzzle and Lego table. Parents will bring their kids in and they'll spend forty-five minutes to an hour, if not all day there, instead of going to the park or whatever, on a Saturday. We get the outside book drop in the morning, before we open and again in the afternoon, just before we close. And as we start off the day, we've got a desk schedule. And so like, usually no more than two hours at a time on the desk. But the desk can consist of answering the phones, helping patrons check out, keeping an eye on the self-checkout station, helping people on the computers, opening the doors for people in the study room. And then when we're not on desk, we've got extracurricular-type programs. So if we're getting ready, like I'm going to be doing a book art program coming up, and so I've gotta like, make sure all my demos are ready and make sure I have all the books I need and all the materials. The children's librarian is looking around for this material for that program, or this the other. So there's a lot of off-desk work that happens that a lot of people don't see.
Grace Ball 06:01
Yeah, I bet. What would you say is like the aspect of your job that you love the most?
Nico D'Archangel 06:06
Besides my fantastic immediate co-workers, I would not be as happy in the job if it wasn't for them. We're a really good, cohesive group. I like that no two days are going to be the same. There's always something a little bit different, a little bit intriguing, interesting going on. Like, I'm never really going to be bored at the library. Even if I'm just sitting at the desk, I can be writing blogs, I can be researching because someone asked me "What kind of books are like this author?" well, let's find out kind of thing. So I like that flexibility of days, and how every day is a new adventure.
Grace Ball 06:47
So kind of the flip side of that question. What would you say is the most challenging part of your job?
Nico D'Archangel 06:53
That was the question I had the hardest time thinking about, I think, I would say, managing patron expectations. Because sometimes they come into the library, and they think that we're going to do everything for them. Like we're gonna sit down at the computer next to them, type in their passwords, fill out their resume, submit the job application, or something to that effect, because someone else in another thing that doesn't come to the library says "Oh, yeah! Go to the library. They'll do that for you."
Grace Ball 07:24
Nico D'Archangel 07:25
We can help you get on, but we can't handhold and some people really do need that step-by-step help. And because we're having to do so many things, we can't always get that help. And it's frustrating, because we can see the need, but we aren't able to fill it because there's never enough of us at any one time to meet every need.
Grace Ball 07:44
So it sounds like you've wanted to be working at a library basically your whole life. But once you really got into it, were there any aspects of working at a library that surprised you or that you think might surprise people?
Nico D'Archangel 08:00
I don't know if it's a surprise, per se, but one of the most fascinating things that I think about working at the library is access to books before they're published. Advanced Reader Copies, whether they're digital or physical, I think that's one of the best little perks about working in a library. Read a book before it comes out, and that way you're like, "Hey, this was really good. You should read this." Or, "You like fantasy? Have I got the book for you!" kind of thing.
Grace Ball 08:28
That's so fun. You get a little sneak peek.
Nico D'Archangel 08:31
Yeah, yeah! It feels like I get to help build the excitement and be a part of the process, helping people enjoy reading.
Grace Ball 08:42
Yeah. In what ways do libraries positively impact the community?
Nico D'Archangel 08:48
So many different ways: We are warm places when it gets cold. We're cooling stations when it gets hot. People can come into the library for as many hours during the day that we're open, and there's no expectation of spending any money while you're here. You can just exist. You can't go to sleep, but you can exist. So we're help for transient people. Someone that might not have anyone in their family to talk them through a difficult thing online, we can help them figure it out. We have notaries on staff at all our branches, and so we're able to help people notarize things. Some branches only get about ten in a month, but some branches do 150 notaries in a month. So that's obviously something the public uses often. We give community spaces for different people to host programs. If someone wants to make friends doing a crocheting club, they can book up the meeting room every third Saturday and like hey, this is now crochet group, come on and join us. There's all kinds of networking and community building. At our branch we have movies. We show matinees every Tuesday, pop our own popcorn, and for so many people afterward they end up thanking us like, "Thank you so much. We don't have to go to a movie theater and spend this much on a ticket and this much on popcorn. And I have something I'm looking forward to every week." And that's the only day they get out of their house, and the library is that community for them.
Grace Ball 10:22
So what can the community do to support libraries?
Nico D'Archangel 10:27
Two big things: getting a library card and walking in the building. So getting that library card, that's a statistic that our board and foundation are looking at, like how many library cards do we have versus how many people are in the population. And we have door count every day, like how many people walked in and out of our door? There's not that many, or we've got so much we need to put more programs here. Let us know what kind of programs you want to see if there's nothing that's there for you. Pre-COVID, there was a group that met at like a pub to do trivia kind of thing. But it was led by the library.
Grace Ball 11:05
Nico D'Archangel 11:06
So it's just like, get a library card and visit the library. That way it shows everybody we have the statistics to say, yes, the library is important.
Grace Ball 11:16
That makes total sense. So I know that Richmond Public Library has a volunteer program. Do you want to tell us a little bit more about that?
Nico D'Archangel 11:26
Sure, you can apply either online or in person. You can specify which branch you want to work at or just say any of them. Our person in charge of the volunteers will give specific jobs if you don't know what you want to do. Or say you're a grandparent and you miss your grandkids, so you want to do a storytime kind of thing. We can help facilitate that through the volunteer program. There's weeding our shelves to make sure we have room for new things, shelving, all the new things. There's different projects and events. Unboxing items that come in from publishers, like there's so many things to do that people can volunteer and help with. Our book sale that happens twice a year. It's always exciting! There's always a rush. And every time afterward on social media, "Look at all these books I got for just this much!" It's so cool. And it all comes from either donations or things that were weeded out of our collection--that's all the book sale is--and it does a lot to help the library and a lot of our money come from the book sales now.
Grace Ball 11:36
Yeah, the book sale is one of my favorite things. I gotta say.
Nico D'Archangel 11:36
Teens can volunteer if they need hours for schools. I know some schools require a certain number of volunteer hours, we can do that. The only thing our volunteer hours can't do is be like court ordered mandated things. We can't work with that one.
Grace Ball 12:47
Oh, I see.
Nico D'Archangel 12:47
Yeah, there's lots of volunteer options and things that can help any branch.
Grace Ball 12:53
So any final thoughts you have on the importance of libraries?
Nico D'Archangel 12:58
If I can plug a post I wrote for the library recently?
Grace Ball 13:03
Nico D'Archangel 13:05
It's called Library Myths. I narrowed down like fifteen different myths that people in general say about libraries. And I showed how that's not all of our libraries, like libraries aren't just for kids, they aren't quiet places where you can be shushed if you start talking louder than a whisper. We don't have just books, and a library card doesn't cost any money. Librarians don't get to read all day, even though we would very much like to. Richmond specifically, there are so many counties that we give free library cards to. It's not just people living in the city of Richmond, it's Hopewell, Petersburg, Williamsburg, Chesterfield, Goochland, Hanover, Powhatan, Prince George, they can all get a free library card at Richmond Public Library. Another important thing specifically about Richmond is we got rid of our late fees back just before COVID started. It wasn't helping. The late fees were going to the city, we might see 5% of it. It wasn't helping the library. But once we got rid of it, more people and more items started coming back to the library because there was no longer that financial worry about coming in. They're not going to be hounded for this much money. Because sometimes things happen and books and items get lost. So I like knowing that we only charge if items are lost or damaged now. If you find it, and it's good, we're golden. You don't have anything to worry about anymore.
Grace Ball 14:31
Bring it back any ole time.
Nico D’Archangel 14:33
Grace Ball 14:34
Nice. That's excellent. Great! Well, thank you so much, Nico. As we wrap up, I wanted to give you the opportunity to plug anything you'd like, social media accounts, personal projects. Is there anything you'd like to share?
Nico D'Archangel 14:48
If you're a social media person, follow Richmond Public Library, as well as the Virginia Library Association's LGBTQIA+ forum. We're doing a lot in the forum. It started off for like people who work in libraries, but we also do things for the general public, and it's all across the state, not just Richmond-specific, the forum.
Grace Ball 15:10
Awesome. Yeah. And I can list those handles in the show notes, so look there for those.
Grace Ball 15:17
Thank you again, so much for coming on the pod today, Nico, I had so much fun chatting with you and celebrating you and all the library workers. And I just want to say thank you for all that you do.
Nico D'Archangel 15:17
Nico D'Archangel 15:29
Thank you very much. Libraries work because we do.
Episode transcribed by Grace Ball
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