Dialogue of East European Partners (DEEP)


The Sabre Foundation in Bulgaria

Christina Nedeva, Center for the Study of Democracy

In 1990 the U.S. Sabre Foundation selected the Center for the Study of Democracy to be its official partner in Bulgaria. This was not a random choice. The Center for the Study of Democracy (CSD) is an independent, non-governmental, non-profit organization founded in late 1989, at the start of democratic changes in Bulgaria. In a short time, owing to its effective, non-bureaucratic structure, CSD has gained high prestige in the country. Its programs have attracted many volunteers students and researchers. CSD works in close collaboration with the larger universities and education centers in the country, which means that in the selection of books it can rely on the knowledge and expertise of the most prominent specialists in the country. Financial support has been secured from the Open Society Fund, which contributes to the cost of processing the book donations in the territory of the country. Apart from that, CSD's building provides enough space for storage. Initially, books were kept in the basement of the building which has gradually been redone and expanded to become a convenient, hygienic and functional book repository. Volunteers are not in the least scarce. At present the country is living through a period of crisis. There is a great need for books in almost every field of knowledge social sciences, economics, culture, etc. That is why the proposal for cooperation with the Sabre Foundation in the selection and distribution of book donations has been embraced with enthusiasm.

CSD has worked out a plan for distribution of book donations. This includes a detailed list of English-language schools, colleges, institutes of higher education, research institutes, libraries and cultural institutions. A software package has been installed which can provide any information about any donation (date of receipt; list of books by author, title, publisher, year of publication; information about recipients institutions or private persons; number of donated books).

The first shipment of books donated by the Sabre Foundation arrived on October 3, 1991. It was the first book donation of this scale ever made by an American organization to Bulgaria. It included books in the following fields: business and economics, American culture and geography, English language and literature, medicine, computer science, political and social sciences. When the shipment was processed, CSD arranged its first book exhibition where people could see the books and make their choice. The event was covered in most of the papers. An excerpt of the list of donated books was also published. The books were given away upon requests filed in advance. Within the latitude permitted by Sabre Foundation guidelines, 50% of the books were given away to private persons. The remaining 50% were distributed among 90 organizations throughout the country, among which were 42 research centers, 13 secondary English-language schools, 7 community centers, 18 companies and 8 government agencies.

Project officers on the "Book Donations by the Sabre Foundation" project are placing serious efforts in creating an effective system for distribution and record-keeping of the donated books. Initially CSD experimented with a model where each book was assigned its serial number. This number was used to monitor the movement of books, their most effective use and, hopefully, to exert some kind of control over the storage of books, especially books donated to organizations and libraries. This model was not very suitable since the number of books increased by each new shipment and it became practically impossible to keep track of the serial numbers.

A computer program stores the following information about recipient organizations: place of establishment, address and person authorized to receive the books. The books are recorded in the number of titles per shipment. When recipients are private persons, the required information includes place of residence, address, place of work, education, profession and number of books received from each shipment.

The CSD/Sabre Foundation cooperation resulted in a second shipment by the Sabre Trust-London which included general education books intended primarily for students and learners of English. Many of the textbooks were provided to English schools (language schools, math schools, kindergartens) and to students at the University of National and World Economy, the Sofia University, the Technical University, the Medical Academies in Sofia and Plovdiv, etc.

People show great interest in the books. It often happens that the CSD headquarters are "besieged" by crowds of people who would like to receive books, especially medical books.

For people outside the capital city, CSD provides access to the donated books through the regional centers of the Open Society Fund. Assortments of books are provided to most of the larger libraries and community centers in the country. Two shipments were received in 1992 which contained 30,000 volumes. The number of recipients, both organizations and private persons, is growing constantly. The popularity of the book donation activities is likewise increasing. The Sabre Foundation is already a popular name amongst students, researchers, politicians, and public figures. There is currently a growing and more serious interest in some particular fields of science and public life. In an interview for the Bulgarian press, Ms. Susan Deehy, Project Director of the Sabre Foundation said: "I find that Bulgaria is moving towards more mature requests in the field of literature and books which we donate. At first, people here were interested in textbooks, teaching manuals and humanitarian books. Now they need specialized literature."

One shipment of books was received in 1993, containing 20,000 volumes. The list of recipients included more organizations and private persons from outside the capital city. Most grateful were the hospitals and medical schools in the larger cities.

The CSD archives keep a large amount of letters in which excited people express gratitude for the opportunity to receive such valuable books which they would have been unable to obtain under the present circumstances in Bulgaria.

Book donation activities were particularly brisk in 1994. In early January CSD received, processed and prepared for distribution the seventh shipment of books donated by the Sabre Foundation. The shipment consisted of 18,000 volumes of about 550 titles.

The books were distributed amongst approximately 210 institutions (including hospitals, banks, companies) and many individual recipients (specialists and students).

Many of the recipient organizations arranged informal exhibitions of the books they had received. An official exhibition was organized at the Central Library of the Medical Academy in Sofia, which was attended by Mrs. Lynne Montgomery, wife of the U.S. Ambassador to Bulgaria.

The eighth shipment of books donated by Sabre Foundation and Sabre - Hungary arrived in late April 1994. It included 9,000 volumes of Elsevier science books. This collection contained specialized literature in various fields: medicine (human and veterinary), economics, finance, technical sciences, biology, chemistry, food industry, agriculture, linguistics, etc. These included primarily fundamental research, papers presented at international congresses, symposia and conferences, as well as unique titles of book which had been practically inaccessible in Bulgaria.

The great number of various titles, over 2,600, was a real challenge to CSD's staff with regard to the proper distribution of the books among relevant institutes and libraries. Recipients of this donation were, among others, the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, the National Library "SS. Cyril and Methodius," the National Center of Information and Documentation, the Technical University in Gabrovo, the University of Architecture and Construction - Sofia, the Higher Institute of Chemical Technology - Sofia, the University of Mining and Geology, the Central Agricultural Library, the Higher Institute of Veterinary Medicine - Plovdiv, the Medical Universities in Sofia, Plovdiv, Pleven, Varna, Stara Zagora, and the National Oncological Center.

An official exhibition of books was organized at the Building of the Presidium of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences (BAN), in conjunction with the Open Society Fund, which was attended by U.S Ambassador William Montgomery. The books were donated to the BAN Library.

Similar exhibitions were organized by other recipient organizations too.

In late 1994 CSD received another shipment of primarily economics books.

Taking into account the continued interest in the donations of books and textbooks, the CSD staff believes that the opportunities for productive cooperation with the Sabre Foundation are not in the least exhausted and that new donations will be most welcome in the future.

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