Restocking Libraries, Restoring Hope: A Report on Sabre Foundation's Book Program in Bosnia & Herzegovina

On July 4, 1997, Sabre's second shipment arrived in Bosnia -- a 20-foot container holding approximately 10,000 new books donated by Harvard University Press and The MIT Press (two copies of approximately 2,500 titles from each press). The books will help restock libraries in Bosnia & Herzegovina destroyed during the war. In particular, the shipment will help rebuild the National and University Library in Sarajevo, which was devastated after being shelled in 1992. Sabre's first shipment, sent in October, 1996, contained children's books, dictionaries, and encyclopedias donated by the publishers McGraw-Hill, Simon & Schuster and World Book. On October 21, 1996, a White House ceremony hosted by First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton recognized Sabre's Bosnia program as žan outstanding example of public-private initiativeÓ.

The project is managed in Sarajevo by University of Sarajevo professor Kemal Bakarsic, head of Sabre's partner organization and the former chief librarian of the state museum in Bosnia & Herzegovina. In Bosnia, as in each country where Sabre has established a program, the partner organization is responsible for choosing, processing and distributing donated materials. In late June, Sabre Project Director Tania Vitvitsky made a site visit to Sarajevo to discuss with Dr. Bakarsic the future direction of the program, including the outlook for continued funding as well as in-country warehousing, distribution, and cataloguing issues. Discussions were also held with Dr. Enes Kujundzic, Director of the National and University Library on both short and long term prospects for restocking of library holdings and reconstruction. In addition, Vitvitsky traveled to Tuzla for meetings with Enisa Zunic, Director of the National and University Library in Tuzla.

William A. Lindsay, CFO of Harvard University Press, who recently joined Sabre's Steering Committee, has led the campaign to encourage other university presses to join Harvard and MIT in contributing to the project. The result is an unprecedented cooperative effort, with pledges from presses currently totaling approximately 20,000 volumes, or enough books to fill an additional two containers. Members of the Association of American University Presses that have committed to donating materials include:

Andras Riedlmayer, Aga Khan Program bibliographer, and Jeffrey Spurr, Cataloguer for Islamic Art at the Fine Arts Library, Harvard University, continue to work with Sabre in enlisting the participation of other universities and university libraries. Thus far, libraries that have donated books include:

(For the present, due to the overwhelming response, Sabre is no longer accepting offers of donations from libraries until such time as the back-log of donated books is shipped and distributed to appropriate institutions in Bosnia).

As the scale of donations will tax the ability of Bosnian librarians --- who continue to work in very difficult conditions --- to catalogue such a large number of titles (more than 15,000 individual titles), OCLC (On-Line Computer Library Center) has agreed to provide bibliographic data in electronic form for books donated by the university presses.

The Bosnia program was made possible with generous funding from the Dusky Foundation of Boston as well as the Whitehead Foundation of New York and the United States Information Agency. Prof. William A. Hunt of the Solidarity Project, St. Lawrence University, provided funds for the Sarajevo warehouse while ocean freight costs for both shipments were covered by the U.S. Agency for International Development's Ocean Freight Reimbursement Program.

July 31, 1997


The Sabre Foundation, Inc., founded in 1969, works to build free institutions and to examine the ideals that sustain them. Its largest project makes millions of dollars of donated books available to needy individuals in Eastern Europe, the former Soviet Union, and other developing regions through non-governmental partner organizations, libraries, universities, schools, research organizations and other similar institutions. In its newest initiative, Library and Information Technology Services, Sabre helps organizations in these regions take advantage of rapidly evolving Internet and related information technologies. Sabre also sponsors international symposia and philosophical publications which explore the nature and accountability of free institutions.

For more information, see Sabre's World Wide Web site:

Sabre is a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) organization under the U.S. Internal Revenue Code, and is registered as a Private Voluntary Organization with the U.S. Agency for International Development.


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