Marcela Groseková, Book Projects
Slovak Academic Information Agency-Service
Center for the Third Sector
In the first place I would like to thank Tania Vitvitsky and Sabre Foundation not only for the beautiful and necessary books we are getting already for the fourth year but also for the opportunity to meet with you and exchange our experiences with book donations. After doing this job for three years and handling several shipments including their distribution, I can say, with some measure of responsibility, that these book donations are received in Slovakia with big gratitude. My job is very difficult and very challenging when I have some books to distribute and less challenging when the books are gone.
I prepared for you written information about SAIA-SCTS, which is a partner of Sabre Foundation since 1991 and which has so far distributed 118,288 books and periodicals. In addition, I described the system of distribution which we developed in Slovakia. I hope these materials will help you to understand how the donated books are distributed.
In the process of distribution SAIA-SCTS has the advantage of having five branch offices outside Bratislava, all of which are located in university cities all across Slovakia. They all receive appropriate numbers of copies of each title, prepare exhibitions for them, invite representatives of universities, schools, and libraries in the region and take care of the publicity and distribution of the books. The entire information about the donation is thus publicized all across Slovakia and it is up to each individual person or institution to use the opportunity to acquire the books offered. Written orders that could not be fulfilled show that demand for books is higher than what donations can offer. Employees of SAIA-SCTS play an important part in the distribution since they are familiar with the needs of their regions and over the years they have established personal contact with people working at universities, schools, and libraries in the region. The only goal of our work is to place each book in the most appropriate place.
I would like to comment on some points from the report written by Mr. Jonathan A. Becker from Civic Education Project, who visited Slovakia. I have read the report about this donation several times. In many ways, the report gives a true picture; however in many ways, my experience does not support its findings. Any report cannot fully describe the impact of thousands of books ending in the right hands, i.e., in libraries, institutions, with teachers, or students (and this is evident from dozens of letters), and no statistics can express what a fantastic source of information these books are after many years of isolation. I can say that this form of help of the U.S. to our country is immeasurable and without substitute since I have met with every single recipient of the books in my region. I worked in a university library for twenty years and I know how the network of libraries works and what types of libraries there are in Slovakia. I am also familiar with the profession of a librarian and with how books are acquired and lent out. The current financial situation of libraries is also known to me, as is the fact that many times donated books are the only ones that expand a library's collection of foreign books. I would like to demonstrate some facts using the last book donation as an example Ñ for instance, how the director of the Central Library of the Slovak Academy of Sciences, which is the largest scientific institution, evaluated and enumerated what the book donation means for their science library:
"Considering the lack of financial resources for purchases of foreign technical books (a condition that has lingered in our libraries for several years) we can compare what SAIA does to handing a glass of water to a thirsty person in a desert. I think the language of numbers is clear enough: in 1995, the Central Library of the Slovak Academy of Sciences could afford to buy only 30 titles of foreign books from countries with convertible currency. It has paid 100,000 Sk for these 30 titles while the collection of our library currently contains 2,300 books obtained from the book donations distributed by SAIA."
When I started working with the book donation, it was rather lecturers than students who showed greater interest in the books. Two years ago young entrepreneurs and businessmen from just established companies became more interested in economics and business books. Today the situation is reversed. It is again students who have got the opportunity during the last years to improve their language skills and today are able to read books in English. Just to mention From Socrates to Sartre, we have ordered it for the third time and although we received 200 copies in the last shipment, they have all been distributed right away. The situation was similar with the book Contemporary Advertising, presumably because the role of advertising used to be downplayed in Slovakia before the events of 1989. The range of university textbooks is big and the books are priceless not only for their content but also for their illustrativeness. The books alternate facts with examples and textbooks of this type were and still are lacking. Even if a certain book cannot be used as a textbook due to the fact that it is in English, it is a source of contribution for the lecturer as well as for the student. Some books (Samuelson's Economics for instance) are used as primary textbooks at The School of Management of Comenius University as well as at other universities offering courses in economics. Among the other titles used as textbooks, I could mention Calculus and Analytical Geometry used at the Slovak Technical University's School of Mechanical Engineering and two books dealing with aviation: Be a Better Pilot and Art of Instrument Flying used as textbooks at VSDaS (The University of Transport and Communication). Medical books form a very special category. A separate shipment of medical atlases could not satisfy the demand of medical doctors and universities, nor could it fill the gap that exists in this field.
Mr. Becker's report also contains statistics about the availability of these books, which is again a very hard thing to evaluate objectively. Every library has its own profile in selecting books of a specific category, which means that any particular library may choose as few as three or four titles or as many as 50 titles from the Sabre Foundation Book Donation. This number may not seem high, but the books specifically selected by libraries usually find good use and no matter how useful a book might be it is useless if placed in a library where no one looks for it. It is therefore of utmost importance to leave the right to choose the books to the libraries and not assign the books to them. In a country of five million with several hundred libraries, universities, and schools, a donation of 18,000 books (270 titles) is not that big and it may appear that the donated books get scattered and do not get used. This is, however, not the case. That is all I wanted to say in response to Mr. Becker's report.
For the second year Slovakia has had the opportunity to join the program Reduced Cost Journal Service. The success of this program is closely linked with the financial resources of the libraries which are tending to diminish. Despite this situation several scientific libraries have subscribed to journals included in the program. University libraries Ñ for which the deadline is September 15 Ñ are however left out completely, because the deadline is set for a time of vacations and is not suitable. If the deadline had been extended by one month, the situation could have been very different. I am not sure whether the publishers would agree with such an extension.
Customs house --> warehouse (with the exception of the last shipment all shipments have so far been duty- and tax-free. Value added tax has been paid for the books in the last shipment.)
P.O. Box 108
Hviezdoslavovo nam. 14
810 00 Bratislava 1
tel.: 07 5333 010, 5333 762
fax: 07 5332 192
Your institution will receive books from the Sabre Foundation, Inc. Please, fill out this questionnaire and return it to the address above.
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Since this questionnaire serves as a record about the distribution and use of the books donated from the Sabre Foundation, we would like to ask you to complete it correctly and truthfully. This will help us prepare future book donation shipments.