Josiah Lee Auspitz, Director Sabre Foundation, Inc.
I have the honor of opening the Dialogue of Eastern European Partners.
The idea for this working conference emerged from a larger meeting, "Dialogue of Partners," organized a few years ago in Baltimore by Rosamaria Durand, then of the International Book Bank, with funding from UNESCO, USIA, and CODE (Canadian Overseas Development Through Education). This was a meeting of book donation partners from all over the world: North and South America, Western and Eastern Europe, Africa, Asia, and Australia. The main outcome of the Baltimore meeting was the endorsement of demand-driven, list-based programs.
The Dialogue of Partners developed a professional standard for donation, based on surveying need in the donee countries and pre-clearing donations by title and quantity. This was intended to weed out marginal materials and the well-intentioned but time-consuming collection of used, underlined and unsorted books that clogged distribution channels. The standard aimed at clean, pre-cleared materials that met specific requests of the recipients.
Sabre and the International Book Bank, both of which had previously adhered to the standard, made professional improvements in it, and USIA subsequently wrote the standard into its own grant guidelines.
Our Hungarian colleagues from Sabre-Hungary Alapitvány came from the Baltimore conference with a plan for a regional meeting in Budapest on common problems of book and journal donation in Eastern Europe. They have now implemented this plan with characteristically elegant hospitality. The "Dialogue of Eastern European Partners," which they have organized here at the Széchényi National Library, gives us all a chance to compare experiences and to develop further the professionalism of the activity, which now includes reduced-cost purchase of scientific journals, translation and local publication, as well as electronically-based and Internet-related work.
A grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has assisted in the organization of the conference, while transportation has been provided by each of the participating organizations. We are grateful for all this support and for the opportunity that our Hungarian colleagues have provided.
This first session is devoted to an overview. We have asked each partner organization to give a description of what they do, how they came to do it, and how it fits in with other activities their organization may have. We have reserved detailed and technical discussions for the second and third sessions. We have reserved the fourth session to develop common recommendations and themes. (The declaration that follows on page 5 is the formal result of the conference.)
Though the experience and range of the various country programs differ, the remarkable thing is that taken together, the programs constitute a unique regional resource. They represent the most effective distribution network available in Central and Eastern Europe for bringing relevant foreign-language materials to needy individuals both directly and through libraries, institutes, clinics, schools and other institutional outlets. This network has been achieved largely at the initiative of the partner organizations themselves, which had to seek their own local funding for warehousing and distribution support. It now stands as an important logistic resource.
Just as impressively, at a time when public-spiritedness is in short supply, the partner organizations and the local institutions on which they rely, stand as examples of dedicated service in the cause of learning and civic revival.