The Butler Children’s Literature Center would not be able to run without the dedicated, creative, and smart support we receive from our graduate assistants, Alena Rivers and Hal Patnott. It’s our honor to showcase them here on the Pantry! We hope this Q&A gives you an idea of the personalities and talents behind what we do here.
Q: What’s your name and how did you end up at Dominican’s Master of Library and Information Science program?
A: My name is Alena! I started Dominican’s Master of Library and Information Science program in the fall of 2015. I received my bachelor’s degree in Psychology with a minor in Spanish from Knox College. I have worked in the non-profit sector for a college, study abroad provider, a youth violence and childhood obesity prevention organization, and an Indian performing arts company. I have loved something about each of these experiences, but I am finally moving to a field that addresses my true passion for children’s literature and literacy.
H: Hey there! My name is Hal. I began Dominican’s Masters of Library and Information Science in the fall semester of 2015. Prior to attending Dominican, I studied at Hope College where I received a degree in English and Classical Studies with a minor in Creative Writing. I ended up in Dominican’s MLIS program after working for a year in a bookstore. A love for sharing story and serving others led me to library science.
Q: What drew you to the Butler Center and how long have you been there?
A: The Butler Center was one of the main reasons I chose to attend Dominican’s MLIS program. I wanted the opportunity to explore children’s literature in an environment that is also committed to serving teachers, librarians and parents with professional development and research. I have been with the Butler Center since the beginning of the fall 2015 semester.
H: I’ve been working at the Butler Center since my first semester at Dominican. Like Alena, Dominican University’s connection to the Butler Center was one of the reasons I originally applied to the MLIS program. I was so excited to find a position that would expose me the newest children’s and young adult literature on the market.
Q: What do you expect to do at the Butler Center?
A: I hope to share with our Butler’s Pantry readers a snapshot of my thoughts on new books that are quickly filling our 2016 collection and explore topics of interest in our library community.
H: At the Butler Center I look forward to blogging about the latest titles on our shelves as well as participating in discussions about literature for children and young adults at our monthly Book Banter events.
Q: What would you like to do after you graduate from Dominican?
A: Specific plans are still in the air, but I expect I will still be deeply tied to children’s and young adult literature either in a public library setting or a non-profit literacy program.
H: After I graduate from Dominican I hope to become a librarian for tweens and teens. My goal is to work in a public library.
Q: What professional interests do you have?
A: My professional interests include diversity in children’s literature, and more specifically exploring the representation of and advocacy for African American children in literature. I also am deeply interested in equitable access to library materials for children.
H: One of my primary areas of professional interest is the representation of LGBT+ characters in literature for children and young adults. I am also passionate about learning how to better serve LGBT+ youth in the library, especially those youth facing hardships like homelessness.
Q: What’s your favorite children’s or YA book?
A: I love The Hard Times Jar by Ethel Footman Smothers. My grandmother was an artist and she always found beautiful pictures books for inspiration. One I remember of hers was Peter’s Chair by Ezra Jack Keats, which I read every time I visited her. It’s a sentimental favorite, but I have since loved his books.
H: While Harry Potter will always hold a special place in my heart as the book series that sparked my love for reading, my current favorite is Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz.
Q: What do you like to do when you’re not here at Dominican?
A: I am the mother of two amazing girls ages 5 and 8. I really like them so whatever free moments I can squeeze in between school and work are spent building Lego houses, making up dances, and of course reading with them. My husband and I also love taking the kids to theater and dance performances and exploring Chicago museums (many thanks to our local library museum passes!!).
H: When I’m not at Dominican I like to play tabletop roleplaying games like Dungeons & Dragons. I also consume a lot of anime and manga. Every year I try to attend at least one convention, because I love to cosplay and meet other geeks.