After more than a quarter of a century of supporting education
around the world, Sabre Foundation’s Book Donation Program is coming
to an end. Since 1986, Sabre has helped to fill the need for high quality,
up-to-date educational materials in developing countries and countries in
transition throughout the world, with more than 80 countries benefitting from
this work. By year’s end, Sabre will have shipped well over ten million
new books with a fair market value of almost $350 million.
Those are big numbers, but Sabre’s focus over the years always has been
on quality rather than quantity. Since its inception, the book program has
been renowned for two key operating principles: accepting only useful and
appropriate materials from donating publishers, and making those materials
available for order – title by title – by overseas partner organizations.
These partner organizations coordinated their work with a network of beneficiaries,
including schools, universities, libraries, and hospitals. Aside from the
obvious academic, educational, and professional benefits derived from the
books that Sabre shipped, access to them has also had the effect of assisting
with democratization, strengthening market economies, fostering civil society
and reinforcing the rule of law in a range of countries. Particular attention
was given to those emerging from conflict, such as Bosnia, Sierra Leone, Liberia,
Rwanda, and Iraq.
While Sabre’s partner organizations have been key to the success of
the program, an equally important role has been played by the more than 200
publishing companies that donated the educational materials in the first place.
A recent op-ed piece in the New York Times noted that,
Last week, Education Secretary Arne Duncan declared a war on paper textbooks.
“Over the next few years,” he said in a speech at the National
Press Club, “textbooks should be obsolete.” In their place would
come a variety of digital-learning technologies, like e-readers and multimedia
Such technologies certainly have their place. But Secretary Duncan is
threatening to light a bonfire to a tried-and-true technology — good
old paper — that has been the foundation for one of the great educational
systems on the planet. [New York Times Opinion Pages, 10/09/12]
The author of the piece, Professor Justin B. Hollander of Tufts University,
goes on to say that,
Paper textbooks can be stored and easily referenced on a shelf. Data are
as easy to retrieve from paper as reaching across your desk for a textbook.
They are easy to read and don’t require a battery or plug. Though the
iPad and e-readers have increasingly better screen clarity, the idea that
every time a person reads a book, newspaper or magazine in the near future
they will require an energy source is frightening.
Professor Hollander is, of course, writing primarily for a U.S. audience but
his words will ring doubly true for many of the recipients of Sabre materials
– both institutional and individual – around the developing world.
Sabre Foundation’s board and staff are justly proud of the contribution
they have made to education throughout these regions, in the form of “a
tried-and-true technology”. As the digital revolution moves ahead, the
goal for those tasked with carrying support of this nature forward must be
to ensure that these countries are not left behind.
Although Sabre itself will continue to exist, we offer grateful thanks to
the funders, donors, participating publishers, collaborating organizations,
partners, volunteers and supporters who have helped our book program to thrive
over the last twenty-six years.
Humanitarian Aid for the Mind
Sabre's work is governed by its Book Donation Philosophy:
Sabre Foundation's Book Donation Program is valued overseas because of Sabre's steadfast adherence to the policy that when it comes to the educational needs of developing and transitional countries, indigenous organizations know best. The keystone of Sabre's book program is that it is demand-driven. Rather than trying to send as many books as possible, regardless of demonstrated need, Sabre gives its overseas partners the opportunity to select books (many with CD-ROMs and DVDs) from detailed offering lists. Only titles and quantities specifically requested by its partners are shipped. Those titles are new, high-quality, up-to-date and are selected by Sabre from the offers made by donating publishers. Materials are held in inventory for every educational level, from pre-school through college, as well as for the professions. Sabre's rule of thumb is that something which is of no value in the U.S. is usually equally valueless overseas. The schools, universities, libraries, medical institutions and individuals that benefit from Sabre's Book Donation Program are not regarded as the recipients of aid for whom "any book is better than no book at all." They are regarded, instead, as clients with limited resources, but with an equal claim to the best intellectual resources that can be made available to them.