Prof. Lorna Tumulak-Yso

Prof. Lorna Tumulak-Yso

ImageHer name is said to have been first coined by a famous English novelist for the heroine in his novel, Lorna Doone: A Romance of Exmoor (R.D. Blackmore, 1869). It is no surprise then that University Librarian Prof. Lorna Tumulak-Yso is herself a romantic at heart who finds leisure in unwinding to the music of old love songs.

Though she first dreamt of becoming a doctor, when she realized her family could not send her to medical school, Lorna took the advice of her high school English teacher to pursue a career in librarianship. And that she did, graduating four years later with a degree in Bachelor of Arts Major in Library Science, magna cum laude, at the University of San Carlos in Cebu. She then completed her master's degree at the University of the Philippines-Diliman a few years later.  

ImageHer first job as Head Librarian of San Isidro College in Malaybalay City, Bukidnon was short-lived. She quit upon her mother’s request who was worried of her safety as that was the same year when Martial Law was declared. Providentially perhaps, when she visited her alma mater, she was informed of a need for a librarian at Silliman University. 

In 1973, she took her first plane ride and flew out of Cebu to Dumaguete. She was immediately hired as a librarian at the College of Nursing. However, this, too, would soon be interrupted when her mother grew sick, leaving her the option of resignation.

Upon her mother’s death in 1976, she returned to the University to start anew. Since then, she has been a mainstay at the Main Library. She began work as an assistant cataloger and took on other responsibilites, until she landed the position of University Librarian in 1994.

That year when she came back to the University, she met the man that would soon be her husband of over 30 years, Cleofas Yso, whom she remembers as a true gentleman.

Image“There was no formal courtship, only a mutual understanding that we enjoyed each other’s company,” recalls Lorna. “Since we were first introduced by a common friend, he visited me every day at home and at work. He often brought snacks for me and this went on for almost two years before we both decided to marry in 1979.”

Lorna and her husband, Cleofas, who passed away this year, are blessed with one son, Cleo Patrick. 

Lorna is certainly uncharacteristic to the overriding image of librarians who are often thought as boring old-maids with their hair up in a bun, grumpily stamping books and telling people to be quiet.  She is, as one wise king would put it, a woman “clothed in strength and dignity, smiling at the future” (Proverbs 31:25). She writes her life story in ink, saying that if she had to live her life again she would live it the same way. No regrets whatsoever.

ImageShe considers librarianship as the art of ensuring that library users can find things. Using the beauty that is the Dewey Decimal System, her team of 19 librarians and 19 support staff collect, organize, service and preserve information from a collection of more than 200 thousand of catalogued and uncatalogued materials. They decide where a library item should be shelved, hoping in such a way that it sits alongside items which deal with similar subject matter, aiding the library user who likes to browse or rely on serendipity for their reading pleasure.

It is not always an easy task to decide what something is about and where it should go. It can be a frustrating process, but the rewards are great. She finds it extremely satisfying knowing that her records will have helped students find materials for their assignment or assisted academics in their research, whether they know it or not.

Her love for this art has commissioned her to disciple others in library science and she considers it one of her greatest achievements to see them pass the licensure exam. (Now that the University is offering a Library Science program, Lorna shares her expertise as a part-time faculty at the College of Education.) She says, “There is a dearth of librarians out there” and “we are proud to note that all our graduates landed employment easily.”

Lorna was instrumental in the digitization of library materials, the use of the Online Public Acccess Catalogue, and the increase in the volume of non-print materials at the Library. Under her leadership, the Silliman Library was awarded Outstanding Academic Library in 2003 by the Philippine Association of Academic Librarians (PAARL). In 2007, she was recognized by PAARL as an Outstanding Librarian. 

For Silliman, one woman holds the keys to our treasury of knowledge. She has guarded it for 38 years and by God’s grace, still counting. Whether organizing, retrieving, maintaining the systems which enable access to it or teaching people how to use it, information is her domain. She may not know all the answers, but she is sure to know how to find them.

Describe yourself in three words.
Simple. Kind. Loving.

What is your mantra in life?
Always look at the bright side of life.

What makes you laugh?
Funny jokes and my grandson’s antics

What makes you cry?
When I remember the loved ones that I have lost

What’s your favorite time of the day?
After office hours.


What’s your favorite day of the week?
Sunday, because that’s the day my grandson comes over to visit me at home.

What do you love doing when not working?
Arranging things in the house.

What is your favorite hangout place in the University?
My office.

What makes you blush?
Praises from people.

If you were an actress, who would you be?
Susan Roses — because she is sweet, kind and very convincing in whatever role she assumes.

Tell us a fact about yourself?
I wanted to be a doctor, but my family could not afford medical school.

What’s your favorite game growing up?
Patintero (tubig-tubig), bato-lata

What is your idea of a relaxing day?
Watching TV and listening to love songs.

What one thing would people be interested to know about you?
I want to learn how to play the organ. We have one at home that my late husband used to play, but now it remains idle there since no one else knows how to play it.

What song best describes the YOU and the life you have now?
“Great is Thy Faithfulness,” especially with all the trials that I have been through.

What is the first thing you do right after waking up in the morning?
I pray the Rosary and read the Chaplet of the Divine Mercy.

What’s your idea of a family?
A family is one whose members support each other through thick and thin.