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President’s Message

1998 was a year of much accomplishment for Sabre. We distributed twenty containers totaling more than 370,000 books to fifteen countries; to one country (Liberia) for the first time. We expanded our warehouse space by 30 per cent early in the year. By year’s end, the number of books received from donating publishers exceeded 600,000, with a value of more than $21 million - more than doubling the $9 million in book donations accepted in 1997. Our Information Technology Training Center in Cambridge was opened formally in November. In 1998, Sabre trained eighteen individuals from five countries in ways to access the Internet more efficiently. Trainees have included law and medical librarians from Croatia, university students from Ukraine, and an advisor on Romania’s Council for Reform. In 1999 we will begin to receive trainees from Africa and Asia. And at a gala dinner in Washington in March 1998, Sabre launched its Michael W. Christian Program for Africa. To date we have shipped books to Ghana, Liberia, Tanzania, and Zambia, and in 1999 we will make our first shipments to Angola, Guinea, Namibia, Sierra Leone, and South Africa. Book programs for countries ranging from Algeria to Sudan are currently under discussion.

Our South Africa initiative deserves more detailed comment. Funded by an anonymous donor, our South Africa program focuses on the libraries of sixteen Historically Disadvantaged Institutions of higher education, those that traditionally (and mostly inadequately) have served black South Africans. A prime objective of our program is to strengthen legal education. I can think of few better ways Sabre can contribute to the stability and development of this most important country than to broaden acceptance of the rule of law.

Last year I noted the exceptional efficiency of Sabre’s operations. We continued this extraordinary performance in 1998. Our 1998 cash expenditures for all programs were $648,000, and in 1998 in our book program alone we distributed materials valued in excess of $11 million.

This year I want to highlight the contributions our many volunteers make to Sabre. Not only is the devotion of our volunteers critical to Sabre’s operational efficiency, but it also has enabled us to continuously evolve and serve our mission of building free institutions and examining the ideals that sustain them. In addition to our thirteen Directors, several of whom have been involved with Sabre since its founding in 1969, Sabre’s book program has been advised since 1992 by a Steering Committee, which, with the addition of Ellen Elliott, a Director of the National Peace Corps Association, is now twelve members strong. These men and women have provided invaluable advice to us at several key junctures, often on some of the more arcane and technical aspects of book donation and distribution. Nine men and women now comprise our Advisory Committee for the Michael W. Christian Program for Africa. Already Sabre has benefited greatly from their involvement with us. These individuals, whose names and backgrounds are set forth on the preceding page, bring to Sabre a wealth of experience in African affairs in fields ranging from academia to government service to various Africa-related commercial and philanthropic activities. On a less formal level, there has been a steady stream of people who have helped Sabre ad hoc in setting up new country programs, soliciting publishers, and contributing time, advice, and needed skills. Perhaps most importantly, in many cases our local partner organizations in the countries in which we operate are staffed by volunteers. These individuals, numbering in the hundreds, multiply the strength of Sabre’s partners abroad.

Finally, in 1998 Sabre closed its books on ten years of support for work in Eastern Europe from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. During the past decade Mellon provided Sabre with grants totalling $685,000 as part of a larger and highly successful program to support higher learning in the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia. Through Mellon’s generosity, Sabre made more than $30 million of books, journals, and other materials available in these countries. I am pleased to report that the program will continue in the Czech Republic and possibly Slovakia with partial funding from the partners themselves. Both the phase-out and the movement to joint funding are encouraging evidence of self-sufficiency and self-help in the region, and provide a wonderful demonstration of the generative possibilities of well-placed philanthropy and the enduring strength of volunteerism.

All of us at Sabre appreciate your interest in our work. In the pages that follow you will read more about both our successes and the challenges we face. Do not hesitate to contact me at Sabre’s offices or through the website at if you have any questions or concerns.


Kenneth G. Bartels,

Africa Advisory Committee member Sandra Robinson talks with IT trainee and Polish NGO leader Piotr Pastula over lunch at Sabre’s Cambridge offices.

Sabre President Ken Bartels meets with Fatma Riyami, General and Administrative Manager of the Equal Opportunities for All Trust Fund (EOTF), and Lazaro Nyalandu, Consultant, at the offices of the EOTF in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

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