Two generations enjoy working together at IUB

Among the shelves of the Illini Union Bookstore, you will find books, electronics, merchandise and two generations of Ryan women.

After an interesting turn of events, sisters Katie, senior in LAS, and Jamie Ryan, freshman in LAS, now work at the bookstore together. They also happen to work right alongside their grandmother, University alumna Lucille Ryan.

Katie and her grandmother have been working there for four years, and Jamie joined them at the start of this school year.

“I started working at the bookstore, specifically the general book department, because I like to read, essentially,” Katie said.

She was the first to take a position at the IUB. The second leg of the story, though, was fairly unintentional.

“It was kind of funny how my grandma ended up working there — we didn’t know she was going to,” Jamie said.

Hearing about the bookstore job from a friend, Lucille decided to take a position as well to have some extra money. Much to her surprise, she found that her granddaughter was already working at the same place.

“I didn’t know if Katie was going to be embarrassed to have her grandmother working with her, but she wasn’t at all,” Lucille said.

Although Lucille only works during the textbook rush at the start of some semesters (she has worked as a cashier for these textbook rushes over the course of four years), she is happy to be spending extra time with her grandchildren.

Both Katie and Jamie work regularly — Katie is on the second floor in the general book department while Jamie is on the second floor at the electronic counter and on the first floor stocking and generally helping the customers.

“I started working because reading is my favorite hobby,” Katie said. “I thought it would be nice to work at a place where I would have easier access to textbooks, so I could know the system better.”

That’s the same reason why she has stayed all four years as a bookstore employee. Because she has been there for so long, she gets to attend a spring trade show later this year to help order books from other bookstores.

After hearing Katie talk about her job on campus, Jamie decided to apply her freshman year, and she’s glad she did.

“I’m glad to branch out and meet people and try to find people that are like me,” she said. “And I found a lot of (new) people at the bookstore.”

Now that the three Ryans work there together, it seems to have become a tradition.

The Ryans live in Champaign, so they are no strangers to the city. Their mother, Kathleen Ryan, works for the University as Assistant Dean of Academic Affairs within the Education department.

“My mom told me that we should always have a job all throughout college so we can have extra spending money,” Jamie said. “Because it’s close to school, and I’m also from Champaign, it’s easy just to be (at the bookstore).”

This makes it more convenient for both Ryan girls to have a job over the summer as well.

This semester is Katie’s last, and in four years it will also be Jamie’s last. Still, their grandma Lucille plans on staying in her position even after her granddaughters graduate simply because she enjoys her job.

Until then, the three will continue to work under the same roof as an intergenerational trio.

“When you’re a grandmother,” Lucille said, “the highlight of your life is being with a grandchild.”