VI. Conclusions


In spite of the large amount of book and journal donations which has been sent to Eastern Europe since the revolutions of 1989, most countries still need Western support. The transition to market economies has caused funding for library purchases of books and journals to dwindle.

6.1 Countries and Regions

The countries with the greatest needs are found in the former Soviet Union, where, with the exception of Estonia, the ability of libraries to purchase Western books and journals has declined substantially. Ukraine in particular suffers from continuing economic crisis.

Romania and Bulgaria also require substantial assistance. The former appears to have received a large amount of donations, particularly in the medical field, but has sometimes proven incapable of effectively absorbing them. Albania has received considerable assistance during the last two years, but like Romania suffers from instances of underdeveloped library skills and corruption. Donation organizations would find it advisable to assess cataloguing procedures and accessibility before committing large volumes of donations to libraries in these countries. While several libraries are run by well trained professionals, others would benefit more from training than from a new influx of materials.

The Visegrad countries present a different picture. The libraries of the Czech Republic, with its expanding market economy, have a growing capacity to purchase books and journals, although deficiencies exist in more advanced academic fields. Those libraries would benefit from forms of assistance other than mass donations of books and journals, such as discounts and support for CD-ROM databases.

Hungary has received considerable support since 1991 from the World Bank and Western NGOs and has thereby developed a stronger library infrastructure than the other countries of the region, with the possible exception of the Czech Republic. Hungarian librarians are nearly as likely to request scanners and CD-ROM databases as books, although many libraries are still dependent upon donations for the acquisition of Western books and journals, especially outside of Budapest.

The Slovak Republic has greater needs than Hungary or Poland. Although the volume of assistance which the Slovak Republic receives has grown since its split with the Czech Republic, and many libraries have managed to increase their purchases of Western books and other materials, a considerable number of Slovak libraries have seen their purchasing power decline, and the Slovak Republic suffers from a generally weaker library infrastructure than the Czech Republic and Hungary.

Poland is probably the worst off of the Visegrad countries. Because of its size, its large number of research institutes and universities, and its strained economy, Poland has experienced considerable difficulty in purchasing Western books and journals. Polish librarians remain pessimistic about the future.

6.2 Donation Projects

Improvement of donation projects requires greater effort in three areas: verification, information and interaction.

Donors, suppliers and partner organizations have been lax about verifying that recipient libraries use donations in the intended manner. The cases of donated books and journals disappearing from libraries or ending up in faculty members' offices and homes and in libraries inaccessible to a large portion of the reading public are too great to ignore. Searches of recipients would be most effective if they were coupled with attempts to identify the frequency with which donations are used and a forum for librarians to provide more feedback about their needs and difficulties.

Information should be accumulated in a variety of fields. Donors, suppliers and partner organizations need to establish consistent means to measure whether, and how often, donated materials are being used. They need more input from end-users in the selection process. They also should attempt to identify institutions where lecturers are most likely to integrate donations into their courses. Donors, suppliers and partner organizations require more feedback from recipient librarians in order both to prevent overlap and to branch out into areas which are presently ignored.

Donors, suppliers and partner organizations must use information which they have accumulated more effectively. The databases which many organizations possess are of little value unless the information gathered in them is put to use. That information should be employed to help verify that donations are properly used, shared with other donors to prevent overlap and used to advertise donations to potential library users.

Closer interaction is needed both horizontally and vertically. Horizontally, donor organizations should cooperate with each other in order to avoid overlap, establish effective means of distribution and identify worthy recipients. Donor organizations could also seek assistance from other Western organizations in the region, particularly those involved in education, in identifying needs and assessing the efficacy of donation programs.

Vertically, donors and suppliers need to cooperate more effectively with partner organizations and provide them with as much information as possible about deliveries, preferably on disk. Donors and suppliers should also encourage cooperation among partner organizations and inform them of successful solutions to common problems.

Above all, organizations which operate donation programs should focus their activities on integrating donations into the educational and research environment of recipient countries and recipient institutions. Many of the librarians, scholars and researchers in Eastern Europe are well aware of their needs and are prepared to offer concrete suggestions.

The success of donation projects depends upon the clarity of their goals and the means by which they pursue those goals. All too often, donors, suppliers and partner organizations do not fully articulate their goals and concomitantly fail to draw out the implications of goals for strategies and procedures. The goals of donation programs determine recipients, types of donations, sources of input in the selection of donations and the distribution process. They also help to determine whether there are any logical alternatives to the standard donation processes.

As far as assistance for Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union is concerned, one size does not fit all. Donation programs must be flexible so as to employ resources most effectively in the region and to adjust to varied and changing needs. If they do this, donation programs can make a vital contribution towards the revitalization of higher education and research in the region.


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