It started with a desire to share science with schools and libraries that otherwise wouldn’t have access to the latest AAPG publications.
A few books shipped here, a few more shipped there …
And then the acorn became a tree.
AAPG’s Publication Pipeline Committee recently had a small celebration to mark a very big accomplishment: Just a few weeks ago, the group officially topped the 100-ton mark of books, periodicals and other information that have been shipped around the world.
“With every shipment is a story,” said AAPG member Martin Cassidy, founder and cheerleader behind one of AAPG’s most successful programs. “We could write a book!”
“Geoscientists helping geoscientists” is how the Publication Pipeline Committee (PPC) describes its efforts, as they collect donations of geoscience books and periodicals – usually from AAPG members – and forward them overseas to universities in need.
The program, now supported by the AAPG Foundation, is in place to “improve geoscience education in developing countries by providing used geoscience books and periodicals at no cost to university libraries and other libraries that request them.”
The books themselves come from individuals who donate them to the AAPG Foundation.
Places shipped to so far include: Afghanistan, Argentina, Bangladesh, Colombia, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Liberia, Malaysia, Nigeria, Trinidad and more.
It all started when Cassidy, who has won an AAPG Distinguished Service Award, in part for his efforts with the Publication Pipeline initiative, was asked to look at a donation of 50 boxes of publications from the estate of a well-known Houston geologist.
“The main library did not want them,” Cassidy recalled. “They were offered to graduate students and staff, and with no takers they were to be thrown away.”
After inquiring with other universities, he soon found that wasted publications were a common occurrence. Donations were accepted, a few books sold, but most were just thrown away.
Cassidy described the reality:
“Room constraints, duplication, a belief in digital libraries and lack of staff to even sort the donations prevented their preservation.”
A Win-Win Situation
But Cassidy, having traveled and worked as an international geologist, knew of libraries that had few books – especially geoscience material – due to lack of funds or destruction of library holdings from war, terrorism, riot, fire or flood.
And he was determined to not allow these books to go to waste.
Cassidy rented a storage locker to store the residue of that initial Houston donation, thus marking the beginning of a non-profit company of volunteers that Cassidy would set-up in 2000 known as the Publication Pipeline.
“I realized there would be a flood of geoscience publications as our fellow geologists who retired, left employment or died,” Cassidy said.
His Publication Pipeline would serve as a conduit of geoscience publications from the United States to universities in need all over the world.
“We would sort, inventory, pack and arrange shipment,” Cassidy said. “Companies or geoscience organizations in the target countries would arrange import clearance along with the receiving university – shipments would be paid by companies active in the country of the university receiving shipment.”
After reaching out to local interests and previous comrades, Cassidy found an early member in Rick Wall, who had worked with Cassidy previously on overseas projects.
Wall, who was currently working on a project in Nigeria, joined Cassidy and helped persuade his company, ConocoPhillips, to sponsor the very first official Publication Pipeline shipment in 2001 to the Nigerian Association of Petroleum Explorationists.
“Oil companies like to be involved in the area they are working in,” Wall said. “It’s a win-win situation for everyone.”
After the first shipments, Cassidy knew they had a working model and could really grow it into something big – but they would need more support.
The solution: They prepared a request to become an official committee of the AAPG.
“We realized that the effort was going to be a success and really fit in the family of activities of the AAPG of which I had been an active member for many years,” Cassidy said.
The committee structure proved to be exactly what was needed.
“Our committee increased in members,” Cassidy said, “and our collection of donations soon outgrew our rented storage units.”
Food For Thought
Since becoming official in 2001, the effort has continued to grow – so much, in fact, that it continuously is in need of more space.
Along with reaching its 100-ton milestone, the Publication Pipeline recently reached another successful benchmark as they entered a new community partnership with the Houston Food Bank, which is now graciously providing a large amount of space in its warehouse for even more geoscience publication storage.
“The Food Bank feeds the body and we (PP) feed the mind,” Cassidy said.
Currently, the Publication Pipeline has about 100 pallets in storage at the Houston Food Bank. Twenty pallets are on their way to Thailand, five are being prepared to go to Colombia, five to Venezuela and two are in preparation to go to a university in China.
Walls finds being a part of the effort extremely satisfying, as he is able to make an immediate impact on someone else’s life.
“Who wouldn’t want the opportunity to give students the tools they need to get an education?” he asked.
Wall believes one of the only downsides to the work is the fact that they rarely get the chance to be present when the universities receive the donations. However, the committee likes to ensure that they always have an AAPG member present from that country to participate in the donation ceremony and document the exchange with photos and reports.
One of Wall’s favorite pictures has been a photo of a shipment from Indonesia that captured students unpacking mountains of books with huge smiles.
“Seeing the enthusiasm in their faces – it makes it all worth it!” he said.
Wall, however, believes there is a new focus for the committee to tackle – in order to send out as many books as they possibly can, they need new blood to join the effort.
“We have the foundation set for future success,” Wall said, “we just need more people to help us achieve our goal.”
Interested? Any and all AAPG members are encouraged to be part of the program through donations of used books, but also by actually being a part of the committee who makes it all possible.
For more information, go to foundation.aapg.org/programs/publicationspipeline.cfm.
In case you think it might not matter ... Indonesia students were happy – and then some – when their shipment of books arrived courtesy the AAPG Publication Pipeline Committee.