Each month Physics Today receives hundreds of books — textbooks, science popularizations, conference proceedings, specialized monographs, and more — from publishers hoping for a review in the Books section of the magazine. Once the reviews are written and the New Books list of received titles is published, Physics Today has no other use for the volumes.
In 1999 the magazine’s editor-in-chief, Stephen Benka, and Lennart Hasselgren, director of the International Science Program (ISP) at Uppsala University in Sweden, devised a plan to donate those books to understocked physics libraries around the world. The goal was to help aspiring physicists get access to books that could help them continue their education, obtain an advanced degree, and conduct research. Today the American Institute of Physics’ Books Donation program is still going strong. (AIP publishes Physics Today.)
Once a set of books is no longer needed by the Physics Today editorial team, the editorial assistant (the author of this article) contacts Uppsala to obtain the names of universities that have a need. The books are then shipped from Physics Today’s offices in College Park, Maryland, to those universities at no cost to them. Through a grant, ISP reimburses AIP for freight costs.
By the end of 2021, more than 30 physics departments in 25 countries had received a total of about 16,000 books. ISP had covered $ 2.4 million in shipping costs.
Students and faculty of universities in countries such as Zambia, Bolivia, Myanmar, and Trinidad and Tobago, to name just a few, have expressed their gratitude at receiving the 300–400 brand-new books that come in each shipment. Addis Ababa University in Ethiopia was able to establish a physics department library, says Amare Benor, an adjunct associate professor at the school. The books at Tribhuvan University, in Nepal, “will be useful for scholars for enriching their knowledge and understanding of physics,” says Tribhuvan physicist Shriram Sharma.
AIP’s mission statement says the organization strives to advance, promote, and serve the physical sciences for the benefit of humanity. The Books Donation program has been instrumental to that mission, and Physics Today is proud to be a partner in promoting physics globally.