Library Managers Around the World – Ezio Neyra

This is a summary of the interview with Mr. Ezio Neyra, Chair of the Department of Literature at the Adolfo Ibáñez University in Chile, and former institutional head of the National Library of Peru (2020-2021).

In February 2022, the IFLA Management & Marketing Section organized a webinar “Oh, The Places You’ll Go: Library Managers around the World”.

The webinar shared interviews with library managers from around the world. Each interview was focused around four themes: unique challenges, recommended skills for emerging managers, skills they are developing, and motivations.

My name is Ezio Neyra and currently I am the chair of the Department of Literature at the Adolfo Ibáñez University in Chile. I have also had the opportunity to work as Director of the Direction of Book and Reading of the Ministry of Culture in Peru. And until a few months ago I worked as institutional head of the National Library of Peru as well. In total, I have about five years of experience in management roles, particularly in institutions devoted to grant access to information, culture and knowledge. And, of course, devoted to the promotion of reading as well, and in institutions devoted to heritage preservation, such as the National Library of Peru. Allow me to talk a little bit more about this institution. It is one with three main institutional goals. First, it identifies, preserves, defends, and do research on bibliographic heritage. Secondly, creates and promotes the multiplication of physical spaces where people can access relevant information resources. And finally, another of its essential purposes is to contribute to the development and consolidation of a democratic, inclusive, intercultural, sustainable society. 

What are some of the unique challenges that you face in managing the library? 

I assumed the direction of the National Library in January 2020, about two months before the state of health emergency caused by COVID 19 was decreed. So, the main challenges were related to how to deal with the pandemic, how to adapt the institution so that it could continue to provide quality services in changing in a new environment and difficult environment … certainly. I think the main challenge was to find ways for the National Library and by extension, libraries in general, to continue to be seen, to be perceived … as a relevant and pertinent institutions, even in times of catastrophe or emergency. And to this end, we mainly at the National Library, sought to build what we use to call a more vital dynamic human library, which would have to find ways to get closer to the users to their citizenship. If they couldn’t move. Due to mobility restrictions, due to mandatory isolation. It was the library that had to go to them. That’s why we brought our services or we tried to bring our services closer to the people. We switched services and cultural program programming to what we call multi-modality strike mainly through three different environments the virtual one, the remote one and face-to-face one. And in that way, we developed initiatives such as Aló BNP which provides free telephone, reading services, we launched the Digital Public Library [https://bpdigital.bnp.gob.pe/]. We launched also Memoria Peru [https://memoriaperu.bnp.gob.pe/] or National Library’s profile in Google Arts and Culture [https://artsandculture.google.com/partner/national-library-of-peru], among many others launchings we had. We also implemented a home book pickup and delivery service. And weeks later, we added to this previous service a small network of public libraries. Likewise, we strengthened the face-to-face services, mainly through the comprehensive remodeling of five public libraries that depend on the National Library as well as the creation of the first public library run by the National Library that was built and implemented in a city different than Lima.

What skills would you encourage emerging managers to develop to be successful? 

I would mainly name five. First of all, I think it’s very important to learn how to delegate tasks and authority. I think this is a fundamental skill a good leader has to have in order to boost productivity. It’s also very important to have around the right people, people that you consider smarter than you, that you think they know more than you, people from which you can learn every day. A second skill can be called the ability to make complex decisions. I think in leadership positions many times, complex situations arise. And a good leader must be able to make good decisions in relatively short period of time. The third skill, would be the ability to earn the trust and respect of the team you lead. I think in this way, it is useless to have a leader that only knows in a very broad way the field in which he or she works if first, he doesn’t gain the trust and respect of his team members. A good leader has to know how to listen and must be able to trust people. And also, he must never, I think, belittle anyone. He must never appropriate other people’s ideas. He must always give credit. He must know how to constantly recognize the effort and the work of his team members. In fourth place, I would say communication skills. I think a good leader has to be able to communicate in a very clear way the key ideas he wants to communicate. And finally, I would say that the fifth skill would be the ability to create narratives. I think a good leader has to be able to propose a path, to propose direction, a mission to the institution that he is in charge of. He must be able to communicate where he wants to take the institution. And he must be able at the same time to convince the members of such institution that this is the best direction in which they can be heading. 

What management skills are you currently developing or learning? 

I’m reading and learning in an organized way about storytelling. I am actually very interested in the ways in which narratives can be constructed in order to contribute to organizational strengthening, to the construction of mission and a direction in which the institution is heading. I’m also learning about how storytelling can motivate the members of an organization to adhere to the institutional goals and to work harder in order to reach the institutional goals.

What motivates you as a manager? 

I think what motivates me the most is to be able to create services that generate a high public value. And services that contribute to the development of the communities that a certain library serves. What also motivates me is to contribute to social inclusion through public libraries. I am very much convinced of how libraries, public libraries in particular, help people with the most disadvantaged living conditions, to have the necessary resources to actively and fully participate in social, economic, and cultural life so they can have a decent and  adequate standard of living. 

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