Jennifer Nutefall vividly remembers her first library job. She was 16 years old and excited to work at her local library in Buffalo, N.Y., which was within walking distance of her house. The staff was small and welcoming, and when new books came in, they set aside ones they thought Nutefall would like so she could read them first. That’s how she fell in love with the Outlander book series, which later became a TV show.

“What I loved was, everybody was a big reader. It was fantastic,” says Nutefall, who graduated from Syracuse University with her Bachelor of Science in newspaper journalism in 1996 and her Master of Library Science in 1998. 

Thirty years later, Nutefall is now running her own libraries as dean of libraries and museums at Saint Louis University, where she was hired in September 2022. Previously, she was dean of libraries at the University of Northern Colorado and the university librarian at Santa Clara University in California, where she led a team of 16 librarians and 15 staff and managed a budget of more than $4.5 million.

In her current role at SLU, she oversees two libraries and three museums on campus, as well as 55 staff members. 

“My job right now is very varied,” she says. “There’s been a lot of culture building and trying to get people to see themselves as a holistic organization and help people feel more connected.”

One of the things that attracted Nutefall to SLU was its Jesuit identity that focuses on “educating the whole person — mind, body and spirit — and preparing students to make the world a better place,” according to the university’s website. She was familiar with Jesuit traditions from her time at Santa Clara University.

“The Jesuit principles of commitment to social justice and educating the whole person – to me, there’s a very specific organizational culture that goes along with that,” she said. “There’s just something about the institutional commitments that they have that I find really attractive.”

As she has progressed in her career, Nutefall says she has learned to be flexible and willing to take on new challenges. At SLU, she not only manages libraries, but also museums – a new challenge she welcomes. 

“I’ve always been someone who likes having a plan and goals and working to reach those,” she said. “Here is a place where I really think that I’m going to stay long term. I just love the opportunities, and I can feel myself stretching and growing.”

Nutefall encourages other Syracuse graduates to be flexible when planning their careers. A life planned in pencil may be more realistic, especially because jobs can change so much, especially with ever-evolving technology. 

She recommends new graduates explore what interests them but also learn new skill sets to make themselves more marketable. Those are the traits she looks for when hiring staff for her libraries. 

Although she loves her life as a library dean, Nutefall almost didn’t pursue that path. As a teen, her dream was to become a sports reporter. But working at her local library in high school and at Syracuse’s library as an undergraduate changed her mind and her career course.

“That firmed up my decision that that was really the path for me,” says Nutefall. “I liked the higher education environment. Also, people would come into the library with questions, and I liked being able to direct them and tell them how to search for information. I just love that feeling of helping them and connecting them with the information they needed.”