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By Associate Professor Dr. Kalina Ivanova
Director of the Regional Library “P.R.Slaveykov” in Veliko Tarnovo, Bulgaria
Under the motto “Traditions, Innovations, Leadership with Mind and Heart” a round table and an exhibition, dedicated to Snejana (Sneja) Ianeva and her life’s work were organized during the week of March 8th, the date of her birth, at our 100 years old Regional Library in the city of Veliko Tarnovo, the ancient capital of Bulgaria. It has been almost 4 years since Sneja’s untimely passing cut short her inspired volunteer work as the engine of modernization and democratization of Bulgarian libraries in the last three decades. She was the President of the Bulgarian Library and Information Association (BLIA) and the Chair of Global Libraries – Bulgaria Foundation for many years. Her contributions, ideas, optimism and dedication to democratic transformation, continue to influence the development of Bulgarian libraries and librarians of all generations. Lessons learned are being used as we move from the pandemic into the post-pandemic challenges for the libraries.
The Round table included librarians and scholars who knew her since the 80’s, when Sneja promoted computers and digitalization at the library of our oldest university and colleagues who in the last 30 years were encouraged and supported by her to learn the best practices in the world and then successfully implement them at large and small libraries with different traditions and scope of activities. Now they are in leadership positions. The library of Veliko Tarnovo and the smaller libraries in our region are good examples of that.
Our discussions showed that Snejana Ianeva was remarkably successful during very challenging times because the focus of her work were the evolving needs of the people of all ages who use libraries and the ability of librarians to meet those needs at high standards with modern tools. She is also known for her “big heart”. She genuinely cared and warmly communicated on a professional and personal level, and people responded with trust and respect. The opinion of everyone was welcomed and mattered, decisions and actions were the result of open discussions, all Bulgarian libraries and each librarian were important for her, she included and ultimately united all in finding the best possible solutions. She also persuaded International and national cultural, political, legislative, and administrative leaders to become ambassadors for our libraries and provide support. Librarians in over 1,000 Bulgarian libraries remember not only her brilliant mind and organizational skills, but her smile and warmth.
In Europe Snejana Ianeva is known mostly for her international work, which is not the subject of this article. What is less known is her important and very successful volunteer work for the libraries in our country, which reached even the smallest villages and towns. The reason is her modesty and personal style not to seek the spotlight, but to help others shine at local, regional, national, or international events and receive awards. Our Round table concluded that the life’s work of Snejana Ianeva continues to be relevant and inspiring because through an open discussion she helped find the right balance between traditions and innovations and with high professionalism and heart supported the community of librarians to accomplish challenging transformations to digitalization and democratization. Her life-long mission made her a remarkable Bulgarian citizen and European who is known to the world for her accomplishments.
The exhibition about Sneja’s contributions was received with great interest and has become a “travelling exhibit” invited by libraries, universities, and schools.
In a couple of pages, it is impossible to give details even for a small part of the enormous work of Snejana Ianeva, but I would like to conclude by sharing with your readers the words of some who worked with her, published by the magazine “BLIA Online” in 2020, 2021 and 2022.
Maria Gabriel, Bulgarian politician, former Commissioner of the European Commission
“Snejana Ianeva was a person and a professional who understood and promoted the key cultural role that libraries play in preserving and promoting the European cultural and creative heritage. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to work with her and I believe that her strength and spirit will continue to guide and support libraries as our priceless treasure.”
Emil Radev, member of EU Parliament, ambassador of Bulgarian Libraries to EU
“…an exceptional person, who thanks to her consistent socially engaged public service established herself as the engine of the contemporary development of Bulgarian libraries.”
Vanya Grashkina-Mincheva, President of BLIA before Snejana Ianeva
“Sneja worked for the library community not only from the time when she became the President (of BBIA), not since 2012, but since 1990 - always without compensation of any kind, voluntarily. “….the library community will remember Sneja as the source of ideas and vision. She had plenty of ideas which seemed to us in many cases very difficult to achieve, very distant. But she demonstrated how quickly those ideas were turned into reality.”
“Her quality not to be in the spotlight, not to mention her contributions, was exceptional in our times. Her initiatives and ideas were also exceptional, she was an optimist, who did not accept the status-quo even during the most difficult years for the libraries.”
Emilia Milkova-Stancheva, President of BLIA after Snejana Ianeva
„ There were no small or big libraries for her. Every library to her was a sacred place, every library was to her as a room in her home – she took care of it. Every colleague in the country had her personal phone number and could call at any time and tell her: “Sneje, we don’t have heating in the library, what can be done?” or “Sneje, we could not buy any books“.... She was а person who refused help to no one”.
Anelia Ivanova-Todorova, Director of the Regional Public Library in the city of Montana
“Snejana to me is a legend in the life of Bulgarian libraries! She created an era - a period, in which a lot of energy and a lot of success came together and the perception about us in society was totally changed.”
Svetla Bojilova, librarian from the village of Trud, Plovdiv region
“She gave me confidence, gave me strength to continue with renewed responsibility and optimism to work for the young generation, for the elderly and for the whole community of the village of Trud.”
Marieta Georgieva, librarian at the university library “Saint Kliment Ohridski”
“Supportive of her colleagues in all kinds of situations, a born diplomat, a visionary with a mission which we must continue forward.”
Dr. Nikola Kazanski, Associate Professor, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences
“Democracy at least gave an opportunity for such natural leaders like Snejana to take their rightful place in society. This was a big chance not only for the librarians, but for the library system as a whole.”
“The qualities of Snejana Ianeva as a renaissance personality became completely evident in her capacity as President of the Bulgarian Library and Information Association.”
“She was truly a Librarian with Mission, which she realized to a large measure, although she could continue to contribute more and more…”
Dr. Marina Encheva, Associate professor at UniBIT, member of the Board of EBLIDA
“Loosing Mrs. Ianeva was a grave blow for the librarians in Bulgaria. Her name and her contributions will be remembered by us, her colleagues and will be an example and inspiration for new accomplishments by the libraries in our country.”