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Books That Made the Difference Project Collection

Identifier: Ms-1985-003

Scope and Content

The collection consists of Administration and Promotion subject files, Center for the Book material, magazine and newspaper clippings, correspondence, manuscript drafts, Book-of-the-Month Club material, and audio-visual material.

The Administration and Promotion subject files are arranged in rough chronological order. The Public Relations survey involved a form sent to public librarians asking about effective ways to promote read ing. The Spokane Public Library material includes ideas to promote adult literacy and information on their efforts to boost reading through the use of television. The Dana Library Public Relations Awards contest and the Library Awareness Idea Search were entered by Eastman with the BMAD concept. The BTMTD Kit, which is included with this material, never proved successful. Poster Sessions refers to the use of a BMAD exhibit at the 1982 American Library Association meeting. PM Magazine material includes information on the possibility of a BTMTD spot on the show. Susan Neuman material relates to this professor's research at Eastern Connecticut State University of children's reading habits and Neuman's inquiries to Eastman for duplicates of the recorded interviews. The Sabines' Houston presentation was made at Westfield High School in the Spring Independent School District, October 2-3, l984. The Sabines' conclusions focus on their summation about the difference books make to different people. Reader's Digest material consists of mostly manu script fragments of the book organized by Gordon Sabine for an article that was submitted to but never published by Reader's Digest. Miscellaneous administrative information consists mostly of memos, ALA and agent's information, notes, clippings, etc.

The Center for the Book material includes meeting reports of, and publicity for, the BTMTD project.

The clippings are primarily about the BTMTD project, with a few scattered throughout on other related topics.

The correspondence consists of copies of the initial letters Eastman sent to State Librarians about the project, requests for information and materials from librarians, letters of inquiry about the project to the Center for the Book, and Walter Matthau's 1980 letter to the Sabines about his most meaningful book. Also included in the correspondence are the letters written to NPR in response to their request for listeners' to write in what book made the difference in their lives.

The book manuscripts include a card file of notes for the book, as well as drafts and cut- up fragments of the book. Book copy refers to a xerox copy of the finished book. A first edition copy of the book, Books That Made the Difference: What People Told Us is also included in the manuscripts section.

The Book-of-the-Month Club material includes a copy of its 1985 version of the book (pages 1-128 of the original Shoe String Press edition), as well as miscellaneous project material pertaining to the Book- of-the-Month Club.

The Audio-Visual material includes photographs, contact sheets, and negatives of interviewees in the project. One photograph is of Gordon Sabine at a teletype machine for deaf library users at the Free Library of Philadelphia and another is of him interviewing a woman on the beach at Sanibel. The order of the contact sheets and negatives follows the Sabines' trail around the country. See Container List for complete listing. Of the four 8-track tapes, one is of Susan Stamberg's NPR interview with Gordon Sabine, the second of an interview with Robert Cromie of Chicago, Illinois, the third is entitled "Eastman MS w/excerpts from BTMTD speech", and the last is of "various interviews." The slides are of interviewees. The videotapes include two U-matic cassettes, one labeled "Mr. and Mrs. Gordon Sabine, BTMTD, Black and White, no Sound", and the other of the BMAD slides which has a list accompany ing it. Another videotape is from the April 1981 BTMTD presentation for the Center for the Book, and a fourth is marked "Contents unknown". The interview tapes include conversations with such noteworthy people as Daniel Boorstin, Woody Hayes, Clare Booth Luce, Dottie Lamm, William G. Milliken, Studs Terkel, Andy Rooney, Edgar Bergen, Sam Bass Warner, Tony Randall, Barbara Tuchman, and Susan Stamberg. The interviewees on Tape are listed in a separate cassette index, appended to the back of the container list.


  • 1980 - 1986


Language of Materials

The materials in the collection are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Reproduction and Use

The copyright status of this collection is unknown. Copyright restrictions may apply. Contact Special Collections and University Archives for assistance in determining the use of these materials. Reproduction or digitization of materials for personal or research use can be requested using our reproduction/digitization form: Reproduction or digitization of materials for publication or exhibit use can be requested using our publication/exhibition form: Please contact Special Collections and University Archives ( or 540-231-6308) if you need assistance with forms or to submit a completed form.

Historical Note

In a project jointly sponsored by the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress and the College of Arts and Sciences of the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, or Virginia Tech, the Books That Made the Difference (BTMTD) Project sought to discover how important a role books played in shaping people's lives. The project was planned, administered, and promoted by Ann Heidbreder Eastman, Director of Public Affairs Programs, College of Arts and Sciences, at Virginia Tech, and executed by Gordon Sabine, a professor of journalism at Virginia Tech, and his wife Patricia, an assistant professor at Ohio State University. The Sabines traveled across the country from July 1980 to March 1981, interviewed approximately 1,400 Americans, and asked them two questions: What book made the greatest difference in your life, and what was that difference? They interviewed a panoply of people, from celebrities and authors to farmers and laborers, who named books from the Bible to Raggedy Ann. The answers were collected for a book published in 1983 by Shoe String Press, Books That Made the Difference: What People Told Us. In addition, the Books Make a Difference (BMAD) idea was promoted nationally with, for example, Gordon Sabine's interview on National Public Radio's "All Things Considered" in which listeners were asked to write NPR about significant books in their lives, and as the theme of national library ceremonies, such as the American Book Awards. The concept was also used on a local scale, from promotional ideas for libraries given in the back of the book. In 1985 the Book-of-the-Month Club published an abridged version of the book.


5 Cubic Feet (8 boxes)


The Books That Made the Difference Project Collection consists of subject files, clippings, correspondence, manuscript drafts, and audio-visual materials. The project was conceived in l980 by Ann Heidbreder Eastman, formerly of Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, and executed by Gordon A. Sabine, formerly a professor at this university, and his wife Patricia, who interviewed people across the country, asking what book made the greatest difference in their lives, and what was that difference. The responses were collected for a book, Books That Made the Difference: What People Told Us, published by Shoe String Press in 1983. The theme of "Books Make a Difference" has been, and still is, used by public libraries for public relations campaigns. Noteworthy aspects of the collection include the 1983 book and the 1985 abridged version published by the Book-of-the-Month Club, and the original cassette tapes used by the Sabines to record the interviews.


The collection is arranged by type of material.

Source of Acquisition

The Books That Made the Difference Project Collection was donated to Special Collections in 1986, 1989, and 2002.

Rights Statement for Archival Description

The guide to the Books That Made the Difference Project Collection by Special Collections and University Archives, Virginia Tech, is licensed under a CC0 (

Processing Information

The processing, arrangement, and description of the Books That Made the Difference Project Collection commenced and was completed in 1986. Additional description was completed in 2010.

Books That Made the Difference Project Collection, 1980-1986
Special Collections Staff
2010 (CC0 1.0)
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections and University Archives, Virginia Tech Repository

Special Collections and University Archives, University Libraries (0434)
560 Drillfield Drive
Newman Library, Virginia Tech
Blacksburg Virginia 24061 US