Olivia Warren (MS/LIS '21) serves as the program coordinator for Allerton Park and Retreat Center, which is owned by the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and located in Monticello, Illinois. She loves serving her community and providing quality programs and other learning opportunities.
Where do you work and what is your role?
I work at Allerton Park and Retreat Center as the new program coordinator. I'm in charge of planning workshops and programs based on Allerton's mission and vision by engaging the community in the arts, nature, and sustainability. I work on Allerton's existing and popular programs like the Summer Concert Series, Allerton-in-Residence, Holiday GLOW, Allerton Races, summer camp, and the volunteer and tour guide programs.
What do you like best about your job?
I love being able to serve my community by providing opportunities to explore the estate, learn about the history of the land, and experience nature and art in a way they may not have experienced it before. I really enjoy the Allerton-in-Residence program, which provides an opportunity for artists and naturalists to submerge themselves in this estate while they complete a new piece of work. When Robert Allerton was alive, he regularly invited emerging artists to work in his mansion and use his estate for inspiration. Robert's legacy lives on through this program, and I think he would have loved it if he were still alive. It's also great to interact with people coming from other parts of the state and/or country who can't believe this place exists in the middle of rural Piatt County.
What do you see as the most important impact of your work?
I grew up in Bement, which is only 15 minutes away from Allerton, so I've loved this place since I was a kid. I think the most important thing I do is providing educational and immersive opportunities for the community, and visitors from all over, to experience a truly unique place in the heart of central Illinois that means a lot to me. I love sharing information and things I learn, so having the opportunity to share this place and its history with others through tours and programming is very rewarding.
How did the iSchool at Illinois help you get to where you are today?
The LIS program at the iSchool helped me in a way I never thought it could. I started the program knowing in my heart that I was going to be a youth librarian. However, as I took more classes and had so many new experiences within the program, I figured out that I could use what I learned in other capacities outside of libraries. My Community Engagement class was really the turning point for me. The idea of a central location where a community can thrive—not necessarily a library, just a place the community loves—really resonated with me.
What advice would you like to share with iSchool students?
I cannot stress enough how important it is to not limit yourself to one career pathway when planning your classes. As an iSchool Ambassador, this was something I always told prospective LIS students. If you end up sticking to the classes that fall into one pathway, like youth librarianship, archives, and special collections, or reference and information services, you're missing out on so many interesting classes and outstanding professors. Explore what you find interesting, and I promise you will get to where you want to be and not regret it.
What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
In my spare time, I enjoy reading or listening to an audiobook while I craft or do chores or other things. I also enjoy hanging out and going on walks with my dog Chad.