MacDuffie’s New Librarian


Photo by Cathrine Pedersen

New MacDuffie Librarian Jennifer Tuleja

Ian Hua, Senior Staff Writer, Copy Editor

On Oct. 1, Jennifer Tuleja became the latest addition to the MacDuffie family, filling the role of librarian. A runner, college basketball fan, and lover of history and all things British, Tuleja brings a new spark with her to our library and our school.

Coming to MacDuffie has completed a circle for Tuleja. “I grew up here, in the valley—in Belchertown—and I’ve been away for twenty years,” she said.

Tuleja grew up as a “blue collar kid” before embarking out into the world. Even as an undergraduate student Tuleja didn’t travel far; she was a business major at UMass Amherst. However, Tuleja didn’t stay there for very long.

“I hated it. I was crunching numbers, hated it,” she said. “So I went to my advisor and I said ‘I hate this… I’m going to the history department.’ He’s like, ‘Well, you can’t come back to business school–’ ‘I don’t wanna come back.’”

Tuleja is a huge fan of history; “Asian history, US history, Europe, everything,” she said. She especially was (and still is) interested in original source material, which would be the focus of her profession early on.

“I didn’t intend to be a librarian,” Tuleja said, but her career took a bit of a turn. In college she found she loved working with original source material and wanted to become an archivist, earning a Library Science degree to follow that path. In the end, however, Tuleja found herself working in library after library, whether it be as a manuscript or a reference librarian in cities or at private schools.

However, even in the general field she ended up working in, things didn’t always stay the same.

“I took a big pivot from the scholarly world,” Tuleja said, as earlier in her career she’d been immersed in it.

“In Newport, Rhode Island I oversaw the Redwood Library and Athenaeum, and so I’d be in these homes and spaces that don’t seem real… it’s like I was living with Edith Wharton,” she said, referencing an early twentieth century writer who grew up in and often wrote about the upper class of America. “I found myself in spaces where you can’t make that stuff up.”

Later, however, Tuleja shifted the focus of her work away from scholars and towards students. Through her experiences with youth Tuleja found that she was very good at expressing to younger people things that she’d often worked on or done, namely primary sources and how to do research. Partially because of this, Tuleja switched from working as a manuscript librarian in Boston to working at The Hotchkiss School in Connecticut, which led to many other positions in schools. 

“I ran with being a reference librarian in prep schools for most of my career,” Tuleja said.

After she’d been working for some time, Tuleja faced another conflict.

“I’m a career person, and so I climbed and climbed, and… I went further and further away from my family,” she said. “We have not been living under one roof for 7 years,” she said.

Realizing her family was her priority, Tuleja made the personal choice “as a woman, as a mother” to come to MacDuffie in order to re-center after living a “crazy” life for so long.

Not only did working at MacDuffie allow her to come back to a familiar location, the MacDuffie library let her return to working with students as her later roles had begun to separate her from them. 

“In my other jobs I was managing 12 people, 25 people and not being able to do what I love, which is making things accessible to kids and teaching them how research matters,” Tuleja said. “So now I get to do that again.”

While her family and profession are important to her, Tuleja said her identity is important as well, whether it be her heritage, hobbies, or habits.

As one might expect, Tuleja is a huge fan of books. One of her favorites is The Secret History by Donna Tartt, and she enjoys many books by authors Haruki Murakami and Jane Austen.

“Of course Jane Austen. Literally I’ve read her stuff—I’ve read Pride [and Prejudice] like, I don’t know, 10 times,” Tuleja said.

Jane Austen is just the tip of the iceberg of Tuleja’s other obsession—“all things British.” She loves the BBC, the royal family, and she would love to visit the English countryside.

“I love all things British, I’m telling you, that’s the key banner,” she said.

Tuleja also runs long distance, normally 12-15 miles. It was introduced to her in college, when she thought she “couldn’t run a foot,” but she hasn’t put it down since.

“I’ve run two marathons, run a zillion half marathons,” Tuleja said. “Running for me clears my head and I can go far.”

Tuleja has often received skepticism when others hear she is a librarian who runs.

“When you’re a librarian people assume a lot, and so when… I say, ‘I run,’ they’re like ‘You run? But you’re a librarian……’ so there’s stereotypes, always,” she said.

Breaking stereotypes goes farther than running for Tuleja; she felt that coming to MacDuffie was also a way she deviated from the norm in society. Rather than continuing to push for a higher paying or more professional job as so many do, Tuleja chose to focus on what she loved to do: work with students.

Now that she’s here, Tuleja is excited for the work she is planning to do in order to accomplish some goals she’s set. When she was asked in an interview what specific things she’d like to see changed or revised, her answer was longer than this article so far. She talked about many different goals—for herself, for the library, even goals for the students that the library could assist with. For example, Tuleja would like to remove outdated material from the library, increase the library’s visibility at MacDuffie, and help “teachers help students” in research, citations, and locating sources.

Already Tuleja has began working on these and other goals by putting together social media pages for the MacDuffie Library and starting a library newsletter. She has been at work for more than a month, including the first few weeks which were dedicated to finishing somewhat menial tasks (such as finding out if the library has a circulation system and figuring out where everything belongs).

“I’m ramping everything up,” she said.

Of course, amid all of the work ahead of her, she knows the best part about her job is helping a student so the “lightbulb goes off,” Tuleja said, no matter how “wonky” life might get.