For nearly 30 years, the International Book Bank (IBB) has placed high-quality new books into the hands of readers in limited income countries. During the past 5 years alone we shipped nearly 8 million books to institutions in 32 countries on four continents.
But seismic shifts in global policies have caused us to rethink our model. Worldwide shipping has become more difficult due to terrorist threats. Moreover, schools in limited income countries are now asking for fewer English books and more materials in indigenous languages, especially for children in the early grades. As a result, international development groups that have historically sponsored IBB shipments have cut back on requests for books. In addition, US publishers, whom we have relied on for book donations, have begun to focus their publishing efforts on electronic texts.
Despite these changes, IBB remains committed to providing books and other educational materials to marginalized peoples. But how? This summer the IBB Board voted to close our warehouse operation and instead support specific initiatives that forward our mission. We hope that you will be as excited about these initiatives as we are.
Strategic Partnerships: Over the past 10 years IBB has shipped hundreds of thousands of books to the We-Care Foundation in Liberia. We know their programs, we know their staff, and found their work during the Ebola crisis — hand-delivering IBB books to quarantined families—courageous, inspirational and strategic. We-Care is now engaged in a 5 year initiative called “Reading Liberia” in which indigenous authors write books for young readers, and teachers are taught to use these books to promote active learning and critical thinking. We are joining We Care and CODE, a Canadian NGO and longtime IBB ally, to support this effort.
Promoting Book Exchanges: While materials created in one African country, for example, may well be relevant in other countries, an understanding of import licenses, intellectual property rights, translation rights, and permissions are impeding the cross border sharing of books. Strategies are available for overcoming these cross-border issues, but they have not been codified and made available to local publishers in limited income countries. IBB will engage experts in the international publishing community to produce a series of tutorials or webinars, live streamed and as podcasts, that address these issues. With additional support, we may even be able to help publishers who complete our training program to purchase some of these rights.
Literacy Learning and Technology: Since the advent of e-readers and the proliferation of smart phones, many programs have disseminated literary and informational texts through electronic means. Although there is surely logic in using e-technology, little in depth research concerning the long-term success of these efforts has been undertaken. IBB will solicit proposals from the scholarly community to undertake research that investigates the result of such efforts; our aim is to help steer technology-based literacy projects in effective directions.
We hope that you, our donors, view IBB’s new direction as an opportunity to provide even more effective support for global literacy. Because we will no longer have any paid staff or rent, we will use any monies that remain from closing our warehouse operation to support all of these efforts. In this way we can guarantee that every penny you contribute to IBB will go directly to our unique and important new initiatives. Our volunteer Board of Directors asks that you join us in supporting these efforts.
Wendy Saul for the IBB Board
PS If you’d like to contact us, our phone number is the same, 410-362-0334, but our address has changed. Our new address is 3406 Stonehall Drive, Beltsville, MD 20705.