Bookstore reshuffles staff

The end of an era
When Betty Van Patten became the manager of the Harvard bookstore 25 years ago, she found the shelves lacking in color. Gradually, the color-lover added the reds, golds, yellows, greens and blues seen today. Within a year, Van Patten will trade these colors for new colors—green, the color of her daughter’s eyes, brown, the color of her grandson’s hair, and the adobe color of the pueblo-style style home she will build for herself in Rio Rancho, New Mexico.

Van Patten announced her retirement Dec. 12. The week of Dec. 18 was her last week. A retirement party will be held for her this Friday at 2:30 p.m. in Feldman-Horn.

“I’ve had a very good life working here, and I’ve enjoyed it very much, but it’s just time to go onto the next stage of my life,” Van Patten said.

Van Patten’s husband, Duane, announced his retirement in November.

“[My husband and I] are getting close to retirement age,” Van Patten said. “We just decided this was a good time to do it.”

Van Patten lives in Lake Elsinore with her husband. They were living in an RV in Northridge during the week to avoid the long commute to work. After the move, they will use the RV to travel the country.
Van Patten’s daughter lives on five acres in Rio Rancho with her husband and two children. A third grandchild lives nearby, as does her two-year-old great-granddaughter. Between Van Patten and her husband, they have six children and seven grandchildren, none of whom live very close. When her new house is finished, she will live around the corner from her daughter.

“It’s nice to be there and know you can depend on them,” Van Patten said.

She is looking forward to being able to walk to her daughter’s house and meeting her grandchildren at the stream for a picnic.

In the 25 years she has worked here, Van Patten has seen many students come and go and sometimes come back. She has been astounded by the return of alumni who bought books from her when they were in high school and now have children of their own.

“It’s been very interesting watching them grow up,” Van Patten said.

Irma Hernandez will take Van Patten’s position.

“Our relationship is close,” Van Patten said of her co-worker of 16 years. “For us, it’s more than just supervisor and employee.”

Van Patten said she will miss the friends she has made at school, but for now she is not dwelling on the past, but rather looking to the future.

“I’m not looking back so much now,” Van Patten said. “I’m looking at what I’m going to do next week and the week after. [I’ll] take care of things that I haven’t had time to do.”

The next stage
What started as simply a summer job for a 15-year-old girl blossomed into a career for Assistant Supervising Director of the Upper School Bookstore Irma Hernandez.

At 15, while she was a student at Sylmar High School, Hernandez asked her father, Upper School Plant Manager Felipe Anguiano, who then worked for Harvard School for Boys, if he knew of any summer jobs.

He suggested that she work at the bookstore. Hernandez worked there every summer for five years during the Book Blitz season, along with Harvard boys.

Carpooling in the mornings with her father, Hernandez spent her weekdays packing boxes and labeling various merchandise.

“I never really thought about it, but now that I think about it, it was only boys,” she said with a giggle, “but hey, you’re making money!”  

When she was 20, Hernandez started working full time at the newly merged Harvard-Westlake.
Hernandez shares chief merchandise duties with Director of Bookstore Operations Tina Cleveland, who works at the Middle School.

They select merchandise for the bookstore. In the fall, they attend a festival where different vendors show their clothing, and they select the Harvard-Westlake clothing from there.

This December, Hernandez took over the duties of former Bookstore Director Betty Van Patten after her retirement. Now she officially runs the upper school bookstore.

“It’s more work, but I feel that it’s the next step in my Harvard-Westlake career,” Hernandez said of her new duties.

“I love working here,” she said. “It’s like one big family.”