Oxfam is aiming to raise £1.2m through donated books. One of its shop managers, John Connolly, explains why you should contribute

Oxfam has just launched a massive donation drive asking for 800,000 books in three weeks. It’s a tall order indeed but last year we got a staggering 750,000 books, which was far more than we ever anticipated. 800,000 donated books converts into £1.2m: that’s enough to fund Oxfam’s education project in Niger for a whole year. The sale of just one donated book in an Oxfam shop is enough to buy a school book for a child in Somaliland and six bars of soap – a humbling thought, but every book donated can change lives.

At the shop I manage in Glasgow, we’re never short of books thanks to the donations made by our community, but the response to the donation drive last year was something else. It is this kind of generosity that any Oxfam shop depends on. Local author Anne Donovan heard about the appeal and came to donate some of her own books to kick things off. It’s amazing what people are willing to give. As I write this, we are a few days into this year’s drive and books are piling up. Our regular customers are on the case, bringing us books and spreading the word. Today’s donations are already up to my chest and filling half of the shop floor.

Every kind of book can help to make the difference. It could be anything from a typical paperback – our bread-and-butter stock – which will raise a few pounds, to something like Golf and Golfers, a small, unassuming book that someone in Minnesota gave us £422 pounds for on eBay. How about 44 Elinor Brent-Dyer books and 5 Elsie J Oxenham books, for total eBay sales of £1,178.10? Or to feel really humbled, consider that Teignmouth Oxfam recently sold a copy of A Trip To The Highlands of Viti Levu for £37,000 at auction, the most Oxfam has ever made from a sale of this kind. Amazing stuff.

Imagine what these donations can buy in poor countries around the world – even five books are enough to fund an adult literacy class or 16 vaccinations to protect livestock from disease. If you could manage to bring us a box of 21 books, it’s enough to equip a classroom in Vietnam, and 86 books would train a teacher in Kenya.

It means something to donate books. It translates into real measures that help to alleviate poverty.

You can track this year’s progress towards Oxfam’s ambitious target via the charity’s books “totaliser”. So whether it’s the last book you read, a handful of books after a spring clean, or a whole library of titles, every donation will help us toward our goal.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a date with a wall full of generosity.

• John Connolly is manager of Oxfam Books, Byres Road, Glasgow. Read the Byres Road shop blog at oxfambooksglasgow.wordpress.com. Oxfam is also at the Hay festival asking festival-goers to fill a 20ft freight container with books. In return for their donation they will receive free tickets to festival events

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