Saved as the last speaker for the night, not only did she bring the ceremony to a powerful end and left the audience curious for more, but she also brought the message forward: we must diversify the literature we read in our daily life. Prior to her performance, the audience heard the dean, Gabriele Jacobs, list some of her favourite childhood literature as well as an exclusive interview with the acclaimed International Booker Prize winning translator Michele Hutchinson.
On Tuesday evening in the building of EUC at the Nieuwemarkt, the Reading Without Borders Collection opened with a ceremony to commemorate the diligent work of both the student desk team at EUC and the Rotterdamsch Leeskabinet. The Rotterdamsch Leeskabinet is a private library for Rotterdam established in 1859, located in the University Library of Erasmus University, and specialises in literature in the humanities.
The Reading Without Borders collection consists of literature from all over the world translated into English, selected by Berrie Vugts, the coordinator and ‘driving force’ as his colleague, Elsbeth van der Ploeg refers to him as.
Expanding the collection
Berrie Vugts has been working on this collection for around five years, and wanted to expand the collection to the city, to people who are enthusiastic about reading. With a PhD in literature and extensive knowledge in the field of all things related to books, Vugts has talked to people and students from international communities about books they would recommend and assembled the collection as it is today.
About a year ago, he reached out to EUC, as the student body is a diverse set of individuals from many backgrounds, and came to them with the idea of a collaboration. A year later, the collection is finally here and ready for all eyes to read.
Experiencing the world through books
First-year student Lisa Ooms arrived at the event without any expectations. By the end of the night, she admired the initiative and expressed her excitement to dive into the new collection. “This event combined two things that I really like, one being books and reading, and the other cultures, and since I haven’t travelled a lot myself, I like that I’m able to experience other worlds and cultures through books.”
The student desk team that works at the library and at the front desk of EUC were the main mobilisers, and were ‘very intelligent, well organised, and really helpful, especially with things that normally could take years, which they solved in days’, as Vugts put it. The team was made up of five students, all from very different backgrounds, such as Slovakia, Zimbabwe, Venezuela, and Italy.
Chido Schurgers, a second year student and team member, from Zimbabwe and the Netherlands, also expressed her support for the collection. “I love the idea of this collection. I’m from Africa and you don’t often get represented in literature, but this is great because you have a collection that’s full of books that represent you.” The team members all echoed that this initiative broadens the scope of regular EUC readers, as it contains works from all corners of the world, and it is fitting for the community as it is an interdisciplinary school.