Contact: Tania Vitvitsky, (617) 868-3510
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
The United States Information Agency (USIA) has resumed its support for book donation programs with a $100,000 grant to the Sabre Foundation in Cambridge, Mass. It discontinued funding for such programs in 1995. The 1996 grant supports warehousing and logistical expenses for Sabre's programs, which supply new textbooks and information in electronic form to Eastern Europe, the former Soviet Union, as well as selected countries in other regions.
According to Joseph Duffey, Director of USIA, Sabre has distinguished itself both by sending valuable new books that recipient individuals and institutions truly need as well as by including on-line technologies in its programs. "Distribution of information in the form of textbooks, professional materials and access to on-line technologies to citizens at the grassroots level demonstrates what can be achieved through cooperation between government and the private sector," he said. Since 1986, Sabre has donated more than two million books with an appraised value of almost $60 million to Eastern Europe, the former Soviet Union and other regions.
Bipartisan Congressional support was instrumental in the renewal of funding. Senator Hank Brown (R-CO) introduced an amendment to a Foreign Operations Appropriations Bill, co-sponsored by Massachusetts Senators Edward Kennedy and John Kerry, which states, "... the United States should continue to provide logistic and warehouse support for non-government, non-profit organizations undertaking donated book programs abroad, including those organizations utilizing on-line information technologies to complement the traditional hard cover donation program." The amendment was approved unanimously.
In the House of Representatives, similar language supporting book donation programs was introduced by International Relations Committee Chairman Benjamin Gilman (R-NY), with the support of Congressmen Christopher Smith (R-NJ) and Tom Lantos (D-CA), Chairman and Ranking Minority Member, respectively, on the Subcommittee on International Operations and Human Rights of the International Relations Committee. Both Smith and Lantos were instrumental in the expansion of Sabre programs in the late 1980s. Annette Lantos, the Congressman's wife, during her tenure as Staff Director of the House Human Rights Caucus, was a founding director of Sabre's partner organization in Hungary. The Hungarian affiliate recently served as host to an eight-country conference on book donation to Eastern Europe (for conference proceedings, see Sabre's web site: http://www.sabre.org and click on "Dialogue of East European Partners").
In Congressional testimony before House and Senate committees, Sabre book program founder Josiah Lee Auspitz stressed the cost-effectiveness of book donation programs. In the past, he noted, each dollar of USIA funding has produced one hundred dollars in donated materials delivered to needy recipients abroad. Strong support for book donation programs also came from U.S. and foreign embassies, Peace Corps volunteers, Fulbright scholars, and professional and ethnic groups, who have observed the benefits of book donation programs in the field.
USIA's $100,000 contribution will be supplemented with private funds from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Books for Africa, the Whitehead Foundation, the Dusky Foundation, the Baldwin Foundation, Harvard Ukrainian Studies Fund as well as from the Eurasia Foundation, (funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development [US AID]) and support from individual donors. Most of Sabre's shipping costs are covered by funding from the Ocean Freight Reimbursement Program of US AID, which modestly increased Sabre's grant this year.
Partner organizations in fifteen countriesBelarus, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Russia, Slovakia, Ukraine and Uzbekistanselect the titles they receive from Sabre's inventory, handle customs, warehouse, process and distribute donated books through nationwide networks of schools, universities, libraries and research institutes. "An important factor in Sabre's effectiveness is that in the countries we serve, it is the partner organizations that determine local needs and the materials they are to receive," said Tania Vitvitsky, Project Director at Sabre.
All of Sabre's partners abroad have Internet access, and most communication between Sabre and its partners is conducted electronically. Lists of texts available from Sabre, materials selected by partners, and materials packed for shipping are all transmitted by e-mail. Sabre is also expanding its Internet training programs and is initiating a pilot documentary delivery service and a CD-ROM project for digital preservation of archival materials.
According to Vitvitsky, USIA support for warehousing is particularly important to Sabre in maintaining its high standards because it allows Sabre to accept and inventory large publisher donations of new texts. Since publishers most often donate titles in multiple quantities, partners abroad are able to order hundreds of copies of an economics textbook, for example, which teachers can distribute to students and use as a centerpiece of a curriculum. Sabre typically sends materials in economics, political science, business, law, history, English language and American studies, as well as scientific, medical and technical texts. Used materials are accepted only when they are of particular value in a given field. Book drives that yield boxes of random texts are avoided so that partners are not left with the burden of warehousing and sorting through thousands of outdated books to find the few of value.
More than 180 publishers have donated new books from current inventory to Sabre, many taking advantage of provisions in U.S. tax code that allow enhanced deductions for donations to the needy. Sabre's web site provides links to the sites of more than 100 publishers (URL http://www.std.com/sabre/SAP/publishers.html).
This year, in addition to its ongoing programs, Sabre plans to establish programs in Bosnia & Herzegovina, Grenada, Ghana, South Africa and the West Bank/Gaza, as well as for Tibetan schools in India and Nepal.