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Books waiting to be sorted at Book Aid International's storage warehouse in Camberwell, south- east London. The charity collects and sorts more than 1.5 million books each year for despatch to schools, universities and libraries in over 65 countries in the developing world, 80 per cent of them in Africa. It hopes to raise pounds 146,000 to support the cost of sourcing, packing and despatching books this year, and also aims to expand its operations to establish new projects, as well as maintaining existing collections.

Book Aid International was founded in 1954 as the Ranfurly Library Service, and has since distributed over 15 million books world-wide. It also raises money for specialist books which are not widely available. The books are assembled at the charity's warehouse, where they are sorted and allotted to particular projects by a team of trained librarians and volunteers, including representatives from the recipient countries. The association may target particular educational needs: in sub-Saharan Africa, it has distributed 150,000 copies of Living with Aids in the Community to support Aids awareness programmes; and has worked with the Tropical Health and Education Trust to provide medical textbooks for students and schools in Burma, Uganda, Ethiopia and Malawi.

To provide initial stock for a new children's library costs around pounds 4,000. With more than 50 per cent of Africa's population under the age of 16, educational texts are in short supply and have a short shelf-life, due to the harsh climate and the heavy use they undergo. The charity is keen that books should be carefully selected to ensure they are appropriate for their recipients' needs. In the past, they have been able to sell surplus books, or have them recycled, but recycling costs are now becoming prohibitive. For this reason, it issues guidelines for those who wish to donate, explaining what sort of books are required.

For more information, contact Book Aid International, 39-41 Coldharbour Lane, Camberwell, London SE5 9NR, telephone 071-733 3577.

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